Investigators Continue to Search for Murder Suspect, Weapon and Motive

June 18, 2004 -- Posted at: 7:30pm CDT

NEAR CARAWAY, AR - The last time Dennis Coats was seen alive was June 11th. A week later, investigators still don't have a suspect, a motive or a weapon.

Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann said his deputies have been following up on leads in this case, since Coats' body was found. Their search has taken them to a large drainage ditch about two miles east of Caraway. Search and Rescue teams launched their boats at about 9:30a.m. June 18th. They hoped to find the weapon that was used to kill him.

McCann explained, "He was found about 11 o'clock Saturday morning, so we're looking at about a 12 hour time span there, and he had been dead for several hours when he was found."

A white cross in the St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area now marks where the 51 year old victim's body was found with multiple stab wounds. About a mile away is where investigators are now searching for a weapon.

"It's just close to where the body was found, and this would be the most logical place to dispose of any weapon," added McCann.

Investigators said those who live in this rural part of Craighead County know the ditch would be one of the last areas to drain after rain falls. The stagnant, murky water is still 8 feet deep in some parts, so powerful magnets are being used to help in their search. They weigh about 30 pounds, and are pulled across the bottom of the water-filled ditch. Sheriff McCann said they've been used in the past, and like before, he hopes a murder weapon will be found this time.

Dennis Coats' vehicle was found at his family's residence, about 1.5 miles away. It was searched, as well as his home. Coats' wife, Beverly, wouldn't talk on camera when we stopped by, but she said she has cooperated with authorities. She added she knew something was wrong when her husband didn't come home that Friday night. She had started filing a missing person report around 9:30 that next morning. Police officers arrived at their home later that afternoon to tell her what happened.

Sheriff McCann wouldn't comment on what was found inside of the victim's truck. He said he doesn't know how Dennis Coats' body got to the St. Francis Sunken Land W.M.A., where he was killed or what was used to stab him.

"We're hoping we're gonna get some help from the crime lab," said McCann. "We have sent some evidence down to be processed and examined, and hopefully they can help us out here in a few days."