CLARKSVILLE, Ark. – CLARKSVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The second trial in the death of a 19-year-old Arkansas beauty queen ended Saturday with a mistrial after jurors deadlocked.
Gary Dunn was charged with capital murder in the Dec. 15, 2005, beating and slashing death of his neighbor, Nona Dirksmeyer of Russellville. Dirksmeyer was a music major at Arkansas Tech University and the reigning Miss Petit Jean Valley.
Dunn was the second person charged in her death. Her boyfriend, Kevin Jones, was acquitted of capital murder in 2007.
Jurors had warned the judge twice Friday they were having difficulty reaching a unanimous verdict. After deliberating for eight hours Friday, they went into session again at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. The judge called them into the courtroom at 12:30 p.m.
"Are y'all making any progress?" Circuit Judge Bill Pearson asked.
"No, sir," replied the jury foreman.
"I'm going to declare this jury deadlocked and conclude this trial," Pearson said.
The jurors didn't detail their deadlock. Pearson ordered reporters to not question them, and he kept a gag order in place that prohibits police, lawyers and witnesses — including relatives and friends of Dunn and Dirksmeyer — from talking about the case.
The judge said a retrial was possible and he wanted to limit media coverage that could make it harder to seat an impartial jury. Dunn's trial had been moved from Russellville to Clarksville because of media coverage.
The key piece of physical evidence in his trial was a condom wrapper that prosecutors said contained Dunn's DNA. Defense lawyers noted, however, that other people's DNA also was found on the wrapper, which police overlooked in their search of the crime scene but Jones' defense attorneys found during their search. The wrapper wasn't tested until after Jones was acquitted.
Dunn's defense attorneys largely focused their efforts on blaming Jones, despite his acquittal.
But Dunn also had relatives testify he was with them when Dirksmeyer was killed. Dunn had told police he'd never been in Dirksmeyer's apartment, which was in the same complex as his, but his estranged wife testified she once caught Dunn leaving Dirksmeyer's apartment at 2 a.m.
Dunn appeared relaxed throughout the deliberation process. The mistrial didn't elicit an audible response from him or spectators.
After the jury was led out, Dunn chatted with family members and shook hands with one of the deputies who guarded him, telling her, "Well, it was nice meeting you."
As lawyers packed up their files from the three-week trial, Dunn ate lunch at the defense table.
Officials said he would remain in custody.