Smith has major charges dropped, pleads guilty to lesser crimes

Photo: Jonathan Cole Smith Jr.

A Mountain Home man facing charges in three active criminal cases had the most serious of those charges dropped by the state during a session of Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday.

Twenty-year-old Jonathan Cole Smith Jr. was one of two men who allegedly attacked and beat a Gassville man in late May and was initially accused in that case of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, theft of property, terroristic threatening, possession of firearms by a felon, first-degree battery and residential burglary.

The charges dropped by prosecutors stem from the Gassville incident. Deputy Prosecutor Kerry Chism told the court information developed during the investigation showed Smith was more involved in the theft of property from the victim’s Gassville home than the beating. The man bearing the major responsibility for the serious charges tied to the attack was identified as 32-year-old Steve Niziol. He is an inmate in the East Arkansas Regional Unit of the state prison system, after pleading guilty to a drug case in August and being sentenced to 20 years.

Photo: Steve Niziol

Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison with six to serve and four suspended with a judicial transfer to one of the Community Correction Centers in the state, where he is to undergo addiction treatment. He is also being required to obtain his high school diploma in a night school-type program by the time he is 22-years-old. He pled guilty to theft of property and drug-related charges.

Niziol still has pending charges stemming from the Gassville incident, an open drug case and charges dealing with alleged death threats he made to a reserve deputy sheriff working in the Baxter County Detention Center.

According to the probable cause affidavit dealing with the attack on the Gassville man, the victim said he had been working in his yard when he went inside his residence to take a short break. He told investigators it was at that point he was allegedly jumped by two men — whom he identified as Niziol and Smith.

The victim said his wallet and personal valuables were taken as the two men allegedly discussed a debt the victim was supposed to owe. He said they also took his cellphone so he could not call for help.

He said he saw a female he knew exit his bedroom carrying his .22 caliber rifle and ammunition for the gun.

The victim told investigators he believed the trio entered his home through the back door, while he was distracted by his yard work.

According to court records, the victim said the three alleged perpetrators warned him not to tell anyone about the incident or they would return and kill him with his own gun.

At one point, the victim said one of the males and the female hooked up a trailer he owned to the vehicle they had driven to his residence and loaded it with items removed from his residence.

The woman alleged to have been involved in the attack, 33-year-old Jessica Lynn Wuest-Burch, who lists an address in Ash Flat, faces a number of charges stemming from the incident.

Photo: Jessica Lynn Wuest-Burch

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