Parole board questions Paragould murder conviction

Denver Mitchell (Source: Arkansas Dept. of Correction)
Denver Mitchell (Source: Arkansas Dept. of Correction)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Arkansas Parole Board says a man convicted of a 23-year-old murder in Paragould has "served long enough" for a crime he "possibly did not commit." Now they're asking the case be "fully investigated."

In December 1992, Denver Mitchell was convicted of first degree murder in the beating death of 74-year-old Willard Williamson.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

On Monday, April 7, the parole board unanimously recommended to Governor Mike Beebe that Mitchell be granted parole eligibility.

On their recommendation the board stated Mitchell "has served long enough for a crime he possibly did not commit."

The board went on to state "this case needs to be fully investigated, may be the wrong person is incarcerated due to evidence in the file."

According to the commutation application submitted by his attorney, Caran Curry of Little Rock, Edward Rogers confessed to the crime and Lee Ward was an eyewitness to Rogers beating Williamson.

In the document Mitchell admitted he beat Williamson "after he made a pass at me" at a camping site near the railroad trestle in Paragould. Mitchell stated he stole Williamson's truck and "drove home to Illinois."

He claims the following day Rogers and Ward, who were then teenagers, were in the area and met up with Williamson.

Mitchell stated that after Williamson made a pass at Rogers the boy beat him up.

According to the documents submitted to the parole board, Rogers, who was the son of a former police chief, "confessed to the murder."

Mitchell claims he did not kill Williamson.

The document also stated that Curry "located a recorded statement of Lee Ward witnessing Ed Rogers beating the victim."

Submitted with his application was an affidavit from the victim's daughter, Rhonda Beasley, asking that Mitchell be released from prison.

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