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Arkansas Judge says recording admissible in Realtor murder trial

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge ruled Tuesday that a jury can hear a recording of an Arkansas real estate agent asking her husband to follow ransom instructions recorded days before she was found dead by police.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright ruled on several challenges to evidence prosecutors planned to present at Arron Lewis’ trial next week.

Lewis is charged with capital murder and kidnapping in the death of real estate agent Beverly Carter, who was reported missing in September 2014 after she told her husband she was going to show a house. Police found her body a few days later in a shallow grave at a concrete plant where Lewis once worked.

Wright ruled Tuesday that prosecutors will be allowed to introduce an email from an alias they say Lewis created to schedule a viewing of a property with Carter. He also agreed that redacted text messages between Lewis and his wife, Crystal Lowery, in the days before the kidnapping will be allowed in court.

Lowery, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping last year, agreed to testify against her husband. Lewis’ attorneys Lee Short and Bill James have made several motions to exclude information from Lowery saying it should be protected under marital privilege.

Short said the text messages should be protected because the defense alleges they are related to a different incident, and the suspension of marital privilege “shouldn’t extend to other crimes or planning of other crimes throughout their marriage.”

Prosecutors said the texts, which talk about viewing different houses and the security or cameras, are planning for the kidnapping and show how the couple allegedly chose Carter.

Wright denied a request from prosecutors to reconsider a previous ruling to exclude evidence found in the trunk of a car Lewis was driving. Wright’s previous order excluded evidence taken from Lewis’ home and the car because he said police used an overly broad search warrant.

Prosecutors filed a motion to reconsider saying the evidence would have been gathered during an inventory of the car because it was being towed. But Wright said the police tow policy calls for that inventory to be done before a car is towed.

Wright previously excluded many of Lewis’ statements to investigators because Lewis invoked his right to have an attorney present for questioning and no attorney was provided.

Wright said the recording of Carter telling her husband to follow instructions and not to call the police can be used despite being played by Lewis in one of those interrogations.

“Although the prosecutors have argued it was the fruit of a poisonous tree, I would also note the police already had (Lewis’) phone,” he said.

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