A 30-year-old Conway man accused of robbing a local Walgreens earlier this month pleaded not guilty Monday.
Donald Ray Best Jr., who was picked up by the U.S. Marshals Service and Conway police on April 12, is currently facing charges in connection to an attempted robbery at the J-Square Exxon gas station and a robbery that was reported at the Walgreens on Oak Street on April 6.
Best stood in shackles before Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. on Monday as he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Attorney Lorie Mason entered Best's not guilty plea on his behalf and Barry Keith Faulkner was appointed to represent Best in the aforementioned case.
Referencing a motion he'd previously filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court, the defendant asked Mason about addressing his request for a lower bond. In his motion for bond reduction, Best requested Clawson to consider lowering his bond to $5,000.
"The defendant is born and raised in Conway," the motion filed on Friday reads. "The defendant has a job [where] he was working which he would be the bread winner of his family and would be of more use to the court if he was working. The defendant should have a reasonable bond that his family can afford, [$5,000] is reasonable, being he is from Conway and has kids and family here."
Mason told Best, who is currently being held in the county jail in lieu of a $100,000 bond, to speak with Faulkner about setting a bond hearing in his case.
According to court documents, police were first notified shortly after 1:30 a.m. April 6 of an attempted robbery at the J-Square Exxon on Dave Ward Drive.
An employee reportedly told authorities that a black man “with a small pencil [thin] mustache wearing a bluish grey hoodie” came into the store, “laid a candy bar on the counter, demanded that she open the register and give him the money,” noting the man was “a young male” that was approximately 5 foot and 3 inches tall.
“You are joking, there are cameras everywhere,” the employee reportedly said to the suspect.
According to the woman’s statement, the suspect said he did “not care about the cameras and that there [was also] three guys outside.” The man allegedly handed her a note on a piece of paper “that looked like a cookie sleeve from Subway” that told her to hand over “all the money.” However, when she again refused, the man left the scene in what the woman described to police as a grey, four-dour car.
Shortly afterward, Conway police were called out to a similar incident at the Walgreens on Oak Street.
According to an incident report, authorities were called out shortly before 2 a.m. in reference to a man who laid a bag of Skittles on the counter before grabbing money out of the cash register at the store.
A store employee said the suspect acted as if he were about to pay for the candy but “leaned over the counter and started to grab money” before fleeing the store Friday, making off with more than $100.
The woman described the suspect as a black male wearing “a light blue or grey Old Chicago Beer Tour hoodie with grey sweat pants.”
After counting the money left in the drawer, store employees determined the store was short $118.03 following the reported robbery.
After reviewing security footage, police learned the suspect arrived at the store with another man in a silver, four-door car.
Court documents state authorities caught up with the suspect vehicle later that night but that the suspect was no longer in the vehicle. The suspected robber’s accomplice, 54-year-old Lee Alvin Bonner of Conway, was arrested during the traffic stop.
Bonner told authorities he dropped off “Bubba,” later identified as Best, at the Gold Lakes subdivision.
According to Bonner’s statement, Best told him to drop him off in the subdivision so that he could “dump the clothes” he was wearing before going home. Despite heavy rains, authorities searched the nearby area but were unable to find the clothes worn by the suspect during the aforementioned robberies.
Bonner told authorities he was with Best the night of the alleged robberies because Best had asked him for a ride “to go get money from an ATM.” He further said he drove to Best’s apartment, located in the 200 block of Highway 365, with two other friends but that the other two individuals stayed at Best’s apartment as they left for the ATM. According to his statement, the two attempted to get money off Best’s debit card at the J-Square Exxon and Satterfield’s gas stations before heading over to Walgreens.
“Bonner drove [Best] to J-Square Exxon and Satterfield’s gas stations, but could not get any money from the ATM or cash back on his debit card,” the probable cause affidavit reads in part. “Bonner suggested trying to get cash back at Walgreens, so they went to Walgreens. Bubba came back out with money and a bag of Skittles and they left to go get drugs. After using the drugs, Bubba started acting odd, taking off his outer clothing. He took off his hoodie, sweatshirt and athletic pants and threw them out the window near Tokusen.”
Online records show Bonner was charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, driving on a suspended license and failing to stop at a railroad crossing. He is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. May 14 in district court for a plea and arraignment hearing.
Best is scheduled to appear next in circuit court at 9 a.m. July 12 for a pretrial hearing.