Miller County murder defendant pleads not guilty

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A man accused of murder in connection with an August shooting at the Paradise Club in Texarkana, Ark., pleaded not guilty Tuesday at a hearing in Miller County.

LaJason Coakley, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Montel Waller, 25. Coakley is accused of shooting Waller in the chest during an altercation Aug. 20. Waller died in a local hospital Sept. 12. Coakley was arrested later that month and has been in custody since on a parole violation.

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Paradise Club Shooting (Photo by Field Walsh | TXK TODAY)

Coakley was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 2014 for shooting at a crowd of people in Texarkana, Ark., during 2013 with an assault rifle, according to court records. One of the people Coakley went to prison for firing at was Waller. Coakley was paroled in August 2015.

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According to reports in the 2013 shooting, Coakley was motivated by a Texas versus Arkansas rivalry. Coakley is from Texarkana, Ark., while Waller’s family is from Texarkana, Texas.

Coakley appeared for arraignment with Texarkana attorney Darren Anderson before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Haltom scheduled Coakley to return to court for a status hearing March 7. Jury selection in the case is set for April 3 but Anderson said he expects to file a motion for a continuance.

If convicted of first-degree murder in Waller’s death, Coakley could receive 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

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