U.S. attorney explains complexity of charges and jurisdictions in deadly Arkansas-Missouri kidnapping case

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Clay Fowlkes, U.S. Attorney for the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas, explained some of the complexities involved in the case of a Missouri couple charged after a pregnant Benton County woman was kidnapped and killed.

“This is a very unique case with a very unique set of circumstances,” he said. “There are four separate jurisdictions that have a significant interest in prosecuting these two individuals.”

Amber and Jamie Waterman at McDonald County, Mo. Jail. | Courtesy of McDonald County Sheriff’s Office

Amber Waterman, 42, has been charged with kidnapping causing death and her husband, Jamie Waterman, 42, has been charged with being an afterthought accessory to a kidnapping causing death. Court documents say Amber Waterman abducted Ashley Bush, 33, ‘for the purpose and benefit of claiming Ashley Bush’s child as the child of the defendant,’ and transported her across the state lines from Arkansas to Missouri.

Bush’s burned body was found Nov. 3 near the Watermans’ residence in Pineville, Missouri and the victim’s unborn child was found dead at a separate location.

Fowlkes noted that four jurisdictions — Arkansas and Missouri, each county and federal — have “very significant facts that would give rise to them in this case.” He explained that the plan is to continue to discuss the case, review all of the facts and evidence, and “cooperatively determine which jurisdiction makes the most sense to go first in their prosecution.”

As the crime began in the Western District of Arkansas and Benton County, Arkansas and continued in Southwestern Missouri and McDonald County, Missouri , each of these jurisdictions has part of the crime that has potentially been committed in these regions.

Clay Fowlkes, U.S. Attorney, Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas

He added that each jurisdiction has the right to pursue its own case. He said circumstances like this are “very rare” despite Arkansas’ proximity to several other state borders.

“We don’t have a lot of kidnappings resulting in murders that cross state lines,” he said. “Which is somewhat surprising.”

Fowlkes said ensuring the community was protected from suspects at all times was a primary consideration as the story unfolded, adding that it made more sense for the couple to be arrested in McDonald County. , where they were. These first two federal criminal complaints are the only charges filed so far.

He said his office is in the process of gathering “as many facts as possible to support our efforts to potentially prosecute these individuals in the Western District of Arkansas.”

He declined to set a specific timeline on when charges could be filed in Arkansas.

“We’re going to take our time and we’re going to do a careful analysis of jurisdictional issues and punishment issues,” he explained. “We want to make sure this case is prosecuted in a way that is respectful of the victims of this case.”

He went on to add that the circumstances of the case could warrant pursuing the death penalty in federal court and that the decision to do so would be a “long process” at the Justice Department involving a committee that would make that decision. final. .

“There is a long way we have to go to explore the facts and circumstances of this case and the laws applied to this case to determine if it is appropriate,” he concluded.

Sharon D. Cole