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Eric Frankenhauser’s Possible Plea Deal Hearing Canceled

The Fayetteville murder suspect accused of gunning down his girlfriend last year execution-style had a hearing canceled Tuesday, in which he was set to possibly...
Eric Frankenhauser

The Fayetteville murder suspect accused of gunning down his girlfriend last year execution-style had a hearing canceled Tuesday, in which he was set to possibly take a plea deal from prosecutors.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Eric Frankenhauser’s capital murder case have been negotiating a possible plea deal, resulting in a hearing last week being scheduled in Washington County Circuit Court for Tuesday. No deal was struck Tuesday, though, and the hearing was canceled, officials said.

The cancelation comes just days after Frankenhauser’s public defender filed a motion in Judge William Storey’s courtroom claiming the murder suspect was unlawfully detained by Ohio authorities while on the run from Fayetteville police. Because of the “illegal arrest” and the detectives’ alleged neglect to read Frankenhauser his Miranda Rights while he was being detained, any information gathered by police during subsequent interrogations should not be admissible in court, according to Pat Aydelott’s motion, filed last week in Circuit Court.

Storey, who presides over the case, has not yet made a ruling on the motion, according to court records.

Eric Frankenhauser was declared by Arkansas State Hospital staff in April of being mentally fit to stand trial and understanding the charges against him. The documents showing the mental evaluation’s results were recently unsealed by the Washington County Circuit Court.

A mental evaluation showed “Frankenhauser did not manifest any substantially-impairing symptoms of a mental disease or mental defect,” the evaluation states. The document states, however, that Frankenhauser may be exhibiting signs of major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Frankenhauser’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 27. He has a court hearing set for December.

Frankenhauser is charged with Class Y capital murder punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole, officials said. He remains in the Washington County Detention Center awaiting his hearings and trial.

His trial was delayed in September for the second time. His trial was initially set to begin July 16 in Washington County Circuit Court, before being reset for Sept. 16, officials said, adding that the trial date was rescheduled after defense lawyers requested it.

Frankenhauser was sent to the Arkansas State Hospital on March 4 for a mental evaluation to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Mental evaluations are mandatory in capital murder cases, according to court documents.

On Aug. 22, 2012, Frankenhauser, shackled and wearing orange-and-white striped detainee garb, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment at the Washington County Detention Center before Magistrate Judge Ray Reynolds.

Not guilty pleas are common at arraignments to allow the case to proceed in the legal system. (In the photograph accompanying this story, Frankenhauser is seen at his arraignment last year in the detention center.)

Frankenhauser was arrested in Franklin County, Ohio, in August 2012 in connection with the shooting death of 39-year-old Jessica Stewart of Fayetteville.

He was seen walking down a road 12 miles west of Columbus when he was stopped by deputies and arrested without incident, said Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor.

Stewart was found shot in the head execution-style in front of 2228 W. Wedington Drive on Aug. 5, 2012, police said. She died the next day at Washington Regional Medical Center.

Neighbors said Frankenhauser was Stewart’s boyfriend.