The murder of Arkansas beauty queen Nona Dirksmeyer is the biggest high-profile case the small town of Clarksville has seen in more than two decades. The case was moved there from Russellville where the murder happened.
Sherriff Jimmy Dorney says, "Very few cases in Johnson County go to trial."
Inside the courthouse, Dunn's family sat waiting. They're not allowed to talk; a judge has issued a gag order. Four jurors were selected on Monday; two men and two women. Jury selection will continue Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
Prosecutors say in 2005, Gary Dunn tried to rape 19-year-old Dirksmeyer and killed her in the process. The pair lived in the same apartment complex. According to the police affidavit, tests revealed Dunn's DNA on a condom wrapper at the scene. The defense disputes the match.
Meantime, among the nearly 80 people named on a witness list is Kevin Jones, Dirksmeyer's boyfriend. Prosecutors initially charged him with her murder, but a jury acquitted Jones in 2007.
Monday in court, Dunn's lawyers said their client is innocent and that Kevin Jones is the real killer. Potential jurors were not in the room when the defense made their claim. Prosecutors dismiss the argument, saying Jones is not on trial. Double jeopardy prevents him from being tried again.
As for courthouse security, it is tight. There are 12 police officers covering the trial. That is four times the usual number.
Dorney says, "We had a gentleman about three weeks ago that was raising a little fuss downstairs in some of our offices about the trial being moved here and we thought at that time it is better to err on the side of caution and bring in some extra folks."
Dorney says security may be scaled back as the trial continues. It's scheduled to last two weeks.
Also on the witness list is Dirksmeyer's mother and stepfather but they were not in court Monday. Jones was not in court either. Opening statements will likely begin on Wednesday.
In 2008, Today's THV talked with Kevin Jones and his mother Janice. Check out the story as well as the extended interviews with both.
There hasn't been a high profile case in Clarksville for more than two decades. In 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons was tried and convicted there for killing 16 people.