Jo Ann Buchanan appeared in court to face capital murder charges for the first time Monday. She pleaded not guilty.
Buchanan is accused of kidnapping and then killing her neighbor, seven-year-old Patricia Ann Miles back in August. Miles' body was found a few miles from her home in a soybean field, five days after she disappeared.
Jo Ann Buchanan appeared to be in good spirits Monday morning. She said "good morning" to the media as bailiffs escorted her into the Crittenden County courtroom.
That's about all Buchanan had to say, except "not guilty."
Buchanan's defense attorney, Jim Hensley, Jr., of Cabot says, "We plead not guilty, not because of some trial technicality and we want a trial. She's pleading not guilty because she's not guilty."
Hensley says Buchanan is most concerned about Patricia Miles' death and how the Miles family is handling their loss. He says, "Ms. Buchanan is just in tears anytime she's talking about this child to me. So, she's very upset at this. She's still numbed by all of it. But, she's more numbed by the loss of Tee Tee than any of this stuff. Even this morning, talking with her, she was asking questions about Tee Tee and her family, concerned at the loss."
Hensley criticized investigators and prosecutors' handling of the case. He says, "How come it took so long? And we think we know the reason why there. But, we think the state has certainly stopped their investigation."
However, lead investigator Thomas Martin of the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office counters, "We had many different avenues that we went down. And every road that we went down led back to Jo Ann Buchanan."
Martin says lab tests connect Buchanan to Miles' murder. He says, "There was a piece of fiber that was found on a piece of clothing that was found in the back seat of Jo Ann's van that matched another piece of fiber that was found underneath the duct tape, underneath the little girl's arm."
According to an affidavit in the case, a witness saw Miles get into Buchanan's van. A different witness saw Buchanan on the road where police later found Patricia's bicycle. A third witness saw Buchanan acting strangely the morning Patricia disappeared.
But, Buchanan's attorney doesn't think the state has enough evidence. Hensley says, "Absolutely not. I can't imagine that with what they have, they would bring capital murder charges, based on the evidence that they have. I think that's way above. I don't think that's above board. I'm not sure why they've done that."
Buchanan's attorney says he hasn't decided yet if he'll ask for a mental evaluation.
The prosecutor says he hasn't decided yet if he'll ask for the death penalty. Buchanan is being held without bond at the Crittenden County Jail.