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Bone fragments lead to suspect’s arrest in missing woman case

Harrington (ADC Photo)
Harrington (ADC Photo)

Investigators in the case of Rebecca Lauer, 36, of Lonoke, reported missing July 28, 2013, by family members, say they have collected evidence that she was killed by Dennis R. Harrington, 41. The allegation is made in an affidavit calling for Harrington’s arrest for capital murder and abuse of a corpse. The affidavit was filed Tuesday in Lonoke County Circuit Court.

Capital murder is a class Y felony; abuse of a corpse is a class C felony.

Harrington appeared in Lonoke County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Prosecuting attorney Chuck Graham said plea arraignment was set for Feb. 18 on the allegations of the current arrest. Formal charges have not yet been filed, but he expects they will be filed prior to the Feb. 18 arraignment.

If the charge of capital murder is filed, Harrington would face either life in prison without parole or the death penalty if convicted.

At the time of Lauer’s disappearance, Harrington was on parole after serving confinement in Arkansas Department of Correction for terroristic threatening and aggravated assault. That parole was revoked after his Sept. 22, 2013, arrest for kidnapping and domestic abuse in connection with Lauer’s disappearance. He was returned to ADC Oct. 8, 2013.

Lauer was last seen at Harrington’s residence on Clay Hill Road in rural, northeast Lonoke County.

Sheriff John Staley said Wednesday that investigations such as this “Sometimes take years … We have to use all the means we have, but sometimes it just takes a long time … It has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are now.”

According to the affidavit, information early in the case alleged that Harrington had something to do with Lauer’s disappearance. In interviews, however, he denied any involvement.

Harrington said he last saw Lauer on July 21, that she was at his house when he left to see a friend but was gone when he returned.

Information from several sources, including claims of having seen a body, led investigators to an area near Harrington’s residence where he had been seen burning items.

Acting on a search warrant, investigators searched the area, collecting “several items that were consistent with burned bones and bone fragments…”

The items were sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for identification, which were then sent to the Center for Human Identification Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology at Denton, Texas. The resulting report advised that of the identified bones, two of them were found to be human bone. However, due to the bones being burned, DNA could not be identified.

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