A local teen arrested last week for the brutal beating of a 75-year-old Hot Springs man has now been charged with first-degree murder after the victim died as the result of his injuries, the Garland County prosecutor said Tuesday.
Hunter Allen Byers, 19, of 103 Michael St., was arrested May 1 and originally charged with aggravated residential burglary, punishable by up to life in prison, first-degree battery, punishable by up to 20 years, and aggravated assault, punishable by up to six years.
Garland County Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence confirmed Tuesday the battery charge was being upgraded to a charge of first-degree murder, punishable by up to life in prison, after the victim, identified as Silas Turner, was removed from life support and died.
Byers was initially held on zero bond, but appeared via video Friday in Garland County District Court where he pleaded not guilty to the original charges. Judge Joe Graham had set his bond at $50,000 at that time and set a felony review hearing for June 17.
Lawrence said she was filing a motion to have the bond increased, and Byers will have to be arraigned again on the new charge. Byers listed no prior criminal history before his arrest last week.
According to the probable cause affidavit, on April 30, shortly after 11 p.m., Hot Springs police Officer Tyler Cox responded to an address on Judy Court after a man showed up there banging on the door yelling for help.
The man stated that a known suspect, later identified as Byers, had attacked and beaten Turner with a blunt object at the victim’s residence “just around the corner” at 115 Ranch St.
Cox and Sgt. John Tinney responded to the Ranch Street residence and found Turner unconscious on the floor in “a pool of blood” with obvious signs of trauma to his head and face. He was transported to CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs where he was admitted to the intensive care unit with life-threatening brain injuries and had reportedly lost one eye.
Police said Monday Turner reportedly died sometime Friday night.
Detectives Scott Lampinen and Phillip DeFoor responded to the scene and talked to the witness. He stated he was just hired by Turner to replace a former employee after Turner had fired him a few days earlier. The witness said he had also moved in with Turner earlier that day.
He said he had met the former employee, a biracial teen male, a couple of days ago, but couldn’t remember his name. He said the same teen showed up at the house around 11 p.m. and knocked on the door.
The witness said he answered the door and when he saw who it was he told Turner it was for him and walked toward his bedroom as Turner walked to the door. He said “all of a sudden” he heard Turner yelling for help and saw the teen beating him with a black metal object that appeared to be a tire iron.
The witness said he tried to help Turner when a second unknown person came in and then the teen came after the witness, still holding the metal object. The witness said he was able to fight him off and flee from the house to get help. He gave police the name of another employee of the victim’s he said would know the teen’s name.
Lampinen made contact with the second employee who said the teen was named Hunter and lived at 103 Michael St. A local records check revealed that was the address of Hunter Allen Byers who was “an exact match” to the description given by the witness. The employee stated he had known Byers for about a year and confirmed Turner fired him earlier.
On May 1, the witness was shown a photo lineup of six males, including Byers, and he “instantly and without hesitation” identified Byers as the person he saw beating Turner who then tried to attack him.
According to the affidavit for a search warrant of Byers’ house, detectives went to the 103 Michael St. residence and made contact with Byers’ mother who told them Byers was in the house. Byers then came out and was taken into custody.
Byers’ mother said her son had left the house the night of April 30 around 10 p.m. and returned around midnight. She said he “kept going into the basement area” and told police they needed to search that area.
According to the affidavit, items seized from the basement included three small white towels, clothing and a hammer.