June 16, 2010 Edition

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Investigation reopened
in Smithville boy's death

Gretchen Hunt

The investigation into the shooting death of an 11-year-old Smithville boy was reopened after his brother confessed to a family member that he was the one who fired the gun, according to Captain Jody Dotson of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.

"He confessed to a family member, and they contacted the state police, who in turn contacted us," he said.

Dotson said during a new interview with the 13-year-old, who was 12 at the time of the shooting, he admitted to officials that he shot his brother.

The boy was taken to the White River Juvenile Detention Center. The prosecutor will decide what charges should be filed, but he is expected to be tried as a juvenile. His first appearance was scheduled for today in juvenile court in Sharp County.

The death of Jace Freeman was originally ruled as a self-inflicted accident by the state crime lab after an extensive investigation. The incident, which occurred on July 18, 2009, was originally thought to be the result of a stray bullet.

Jace was shot while playing near his great-grandmother's home in Smithville. Both the great-grandmother and the older brother reported hearing a loud noise, but said they were not sure if it was the gunshot.

Jace's brother later told police that he and his brother were playing with the gun when it fired, and that he threw it into the woods so people would not think that Jace had shot himself on purpose.

It was originally believed that the boys thought the gun was a toy, but Dotson said it was later discovered that they knew it was a real gun.

Investigators with the Lawrence County and Sharp County sheriff's departments, as well as the Arkansas State Police, have been working on the case.

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