Judge finds probable cause to charge Papa John's employee, 2 oth - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Judge finds probable cause to charge Papa John's employee, 2 others in armed robbery case

(Source: KAIT) (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT) (Source: KAIT)
Steven Merl Kennedy (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office) Steven Merl Kennedy (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office)
Devin Terrell Smith (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office) Devin Terrell Smith (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office)
Nakita Shantail Branch (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office) Nakita Shantail Branch (Source: Craighead County Sheriff's Office)
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -

Craighead County District Court Judge David Boling found probable cause Wednesday to charge three people, including an employee, in connection with an early morning armed robbery at a Jonesboro business.

According to police, it happened at Papa John's Pizza, 1203 S. Caraway Road, around 3 a.m. Monday.

On Tuesday, police stated Nakita Branch, 20, Devins Smith, 18, and Steven Kennedy, 23, all of Jonesboro were arrested in the case.

Kennedy, an employee of Papa John’s and the original complainant in the case, was arrested on suspicion of theft greater than $1,000; conspiracy to commit a criminal offense; and filing a false police report.

Branch and Smith were arrested on suspicion of theft greater than $1,000 and conspiracy to commit a criminal offense.

According to court documents, Kennedy called 911 and reported the store had been "robbed." He told police the suspect was a black male wearing dark pants, a red/white jacket, and a white tank top. 

The description matched that of a man officers had encountered earlier that morning in a suspicious vehicle parked behind the business. At that time, the man--later identified as Smith--said he was waiting to go inside Papa John's to get a free pizza because he knew some of the employees. Branch and another woman were in the car with Smith, the affidavit stated.

Following the alleged robbery, officers went to Smith's home and took him, Branch and two women into custody for questioning. 

"During several interviews, it was found that the 'robbery' was a planned and staged event," the affidavit stated. "All parties interviewed admitted various roles in the incident and all believed that video in the store was not working."

However, police found video was available that showed the entire incident. According to the documents, none of the actions in the video suggested a robbery, but they did support the admissions that it was a staged event.

During a search of Branch's residence, police reported finding the stolen money bags and recovered all of the cash and checks.

Kennedy and Branch--who are out on temporary bonds of $15,000 and $7,500 respectively--appeared in person before Judge Boling who said probable cause existed at the time of their arrest and continues to exist to charge them. He ordered them to appear in circuit court on Sept. 29.

Smith, who was booked on a temporary bond of $7,500, appeared before the judge via Skype. At the request of the detective, Boling reduced his bond to $5,000 and gave him a Sept. 29 court date.

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