Miller County jury gives man 40 years for robbery

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A Miller County jury recommended a 40-year prison sentence for a man who plotted with others to commit aggravated robbery.

Master Laffon Leal, 23, was found guilty and sentenced Tuesday for his role in a Nov. 25, 2016, armed robbery at a local motel. Leal and several other men burst into room 133 of the Motel 6 in Texarkana, Ark., at approximately 2:30 a.m. armed with guns.

The victim, Burnice Pickens, told investigators he came to Texarkana and rented the room so that he could meet and socialize with a woman he’d been exchanging messages with on Facebook, according to a probable cause affidavit. The woman, Kiona Easter, 19, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in October and received a 10-year term of probation.

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According to the affidavit, the victim picked Easter up from the Fox Creek Apartments in Texarkana and drove her to his motel room where the two talked for about 45 minutes. Easter continuously texted on her cell phone until she announced that she “needed some air” and opened the motel room door. When the door opened, three men armed with guns entered and Easter ran away.

The men demanded the victim’s money and ordered him into the bathroom. When the man came out of the bathroom after the assailants left, he discovered that not only was his cash gone, but his cell phone and car keys as well.

Investigators were able to track Easter down through Facebook. She eventually confessed to investigators and identified the men who’d robbed the victim as Leal, Roddrick Vann Jr., and Kevonte Smith. Charges are still pending against Vann and Smith.

Easter said the men picked her up after the robbery.

“Easter said the three then began playing with a scanner, hoping to learn whether the victim had called the police or not,” the affidavit states. “Easter said that Leal laughed, saying, ‘He ain’t calling the police, I stole his phone.”

Easter reported that Leal was also laughing about how frightened the victim was during the robbery.

Vann is scheduled for trial in March. A mental evaluation has been ordered in Smith’s case and a trial date has not been scheduled.

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