Update: Mayflower Officer Fired for Withholding Evidence

Update (Aug. 26):
MAYFLOWER, AR - A local police officer accused of voluntarily withholding key evidence in a case involving a woman accused of stealing supplies from tornado relief efforts has been fired.

One day after we aired a report (see below and in the attached video) on the case, a top official at the Mayflower Police Department has confirmed Officer Mark Winchester has been terminated.    

Lt. Sam Boren says Winchester's actions in the case involving Melissa Brown and the resulting conflict with Faulkner County Prosecutor Cody Hiland's Office were reasons for the firing. 

The city attorney also wrote a letter to the police chief saying Winchester had "lost effectiveness," according to Boren.  

Boren says Winchester will receive all pay currently owed but nothing further.

Original story (Aug. 25.):
MAYFLOWER, AR -- An officer is in hot water after prosecutors say he purposely withheld key evidence in a case involving a woman accused of stealing supplies from tornado relief efforts.

In the aftermath of the April 27 tornado that devastated Mayflower, attorney Bill James says his client lent a helping hand.

"All she had tried to do is get out and help the people of Mayflower and those that had been hurt by the storm," James said.

On May 16, Melissa Brown was arrested, accused by Mayflower Police of stealing relief supplies.

But when prosecutor Cody Hiland got the case, his office found major flaws.

"There was in intentional withholding of exculpatory information and evidence," Hiland said. "We take that very seriously."

Hiland says officer Mark Winchester never disclosed that in searches of Brown's home there were no tornado goods found.

Brown's attorney says Winchester also didn't make it known his son and Brown had dated and recently broke up.

"[It's] certainly one of those things that doesn't pass the smell test," James said.

Hiland recently wrote a letter to Mayflower's police chief saying his office would no longer take felony cases investigated by officer Winchester.

"Credibility is everything with an officer," Hiland said. "We can't put him on the stand without the case taking a real hit."

Hiland says two unrelated cases will likely have to be dropped because they were investigated by officer Winchester.
We reached out to the officer on his cell phone Monday. Our call was not returned.
Meanwhile, Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland says he plans to meet with the police chief Tuesday to discuss officer Winchester's future with the department.

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