James Caple of Mountain Home was found guilty of weapons-related charges, including being a felon in possession of a firearm, and being a habitual offender, and was given 11 years in prison on Tuesday. Caple appeared before Circuit Judge John Putman in Baxter County Circuit Court. His case was heard in a bench trial format, meaning there was no jury and the judge served the dual role of judge and jury.
The 35-year-old Caple is currently an inmate in the North Central Unit of the state prison system in Calico Rock on an earlier conviction.
The investigation into his most recent case began when a woman called the Mountain Home Police on or about July 24th and reported that Caple was allegedly making threatening comments to her. She said he believed she was working with law enforcement and had sent her pictures of him holding a gun and a video of him actually firing the weapon. She told police that the threats had put her in fear for her life.
According to court records, Caple has been charged with nine felonies in the last 15 years. It is illegal for felons to be in contact with firearms.
On July 25th, Mountain Home police were called to a local tire shop where the owner of the company had found a weapon on the property. While the owner and an employee at the tire shop were discussing the weapon, an unknown male approached them and said the gun was his and he wanted it returned. The tire shop owner and employee would not give the man the weapon and he fled when they made it known they were going to call 911.
The unknown male was described as tall and skinny with fairly distinctive "tear drop" tattoos around his eyes.
Investigators were able to develop information that Caple was the man the tire shop employees had encountered. The gun at the tire shop -- a .22-caliber rifle sawed off to illegal lengths -- matched the one from the pictures the woman had allegedly received from Caple via social media outlets.
While Caple has had a number of run-ins with the law in the free world, he had also had problems while an inmate in the state prison system. According to electronic records maintained by the prison system, Caple has committed a number of major disciplinary violations while an inmate, including self-mutilation, possession or manufacture of contraband items and refusal to obey a direct order.
Caple's defense attorney, Andrew Bailey of Mountain Home, argued that the state had fallen far short of proving that Caple ever had control of the weapon. 14th Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kerry Chism said picture on social media showing Caple with the weapon and his comments to the tire shop employees that the gun they had found was his and he wanted it back certainly served to tie the weapon to Caple.
Chism admitted that the evidence before the court was circumstantial but he said "circumstantial evidence is good evidence, people have been set to the gas chamber on circumstantial evidence."
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