Dionte Parks, 18, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday for his role as an accomplice in the Fort Smith aggravated robbery and shooting death of Kaleb Watson in January 2016.
After a three-day trial and five hours of deliberation, the jury found Parks guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Watson was a 22-year-old electrical engineering student at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
The sentencings imposed by Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor on Thursday were for Parks to serve 10 years for the murder charge, 12 years for aggravated robbery and 10 years for kidnapping, concurrently with time served. Parks may be eligible for parole in about five years.
Parks has been in jail since Jan. 28, 2016. Shakur Sharp pleaded guilty to the murder charge in April and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. James Sharp Jr. has yet to stand trial and is appealing a juvenile transfer hearing that was denied by Tabor in 2017.
Before deliberations on the sentencing phase of the trial Thursday, the jury for Parks heard character witness testimony from both Denny Flynn, a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee, and his wife Lynn Manning Flynn of Charleston. The couple who manage Kay Rodgers Park in Fort Smith said they have known Parks since he was 11, and became somewhat surrogate parents to the boy who loved to ride horses, throw rope and wanted to be a professional cowboy.
Lynn Flynn said Parks would happily do any job around the rodeo grounds, and because he loved the rodeo so much he "didn't fit in" with the city kids.
"I think he would've done better in a country environment," Lynn Flynn said.
Parks, she added, was more on the mental level of her 8-year-old granddaughter when he was 15 and "he wanted people to like him so bad, he just wanted approval."
Lt. Leslie Asbury of the Sebastian County Juvenile Detention Center also testified that Parks had become “like a son” to him during his time in the jail and Parks had been better behaved and more respectful than most of the other detainees.