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Bella Vista man ‘has nothing further to say’ to victim’s mom before sentencing in murder

by Tracy Neal | September 21, 2022 at 11:03 a.m.
Tracy Neal/NWA Democrat-Gazette Zachary Avans (front) is escorted into a Benton County courtroom Monday. He pleaded guilty to second degree aggravated residential burglary, possession of firearm by certain persons and possession of methamphetamine.

BENTONVILLE -- A Bella Vista man was sentenced to 132 years in prison after admitting he forced his way into a man's home and killed him.

Zachary Avans, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated residential burglary, possession of firearm by certain persons and possession of methamphetamine. The plea was under an agreement Andrea Stokes and Jeff Chandler, Avans' attorneys, reached with Joshua Robinson, senior deputy prosecutor.

Avans was charged as a habitual offender.

Byron Keith Blackmon, 30, was found shot April 27, 2021, on Northwest Fifth Street in Bentonville. He died at Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville.

Shannon Schmidt told police he and Avans are friends, according to the probable cause affidavit. Schmidt said Avans asked him to drive him April 27, 2021, to a Bentonville address to visit a friend about a stimulus check. Schmidt said he drove Avans to Bentonville, and Avans asked him to drive around and then come back to pick him up. Schmidt said he picked up Avans near Northwest B Street, according to the affidavit.

Avans was having financial troubles after giving a friend power of attorney in order for the friend to collect bail money and get Avans out of jail, according to the affidavit. The friend obtained Avans' stimulus check but failed to bail him out of jail, according to the affidavit.

Schmidt told police Avans burned the shirt he had been wearing in a fire pit when they returned to Schmidt's home, according to the affidavit.

A neighbor of Blackmon's heard Blackmon yelling for help and found him lying in the street, the affidavit states.

A police officer noticed a door open to an apartment at 501 N.W. B St., which was Blackmon's apartment. Officers saw blood on the door and living room floor, along with several bloody pillows, according to the affidavit.

Police also found a spent shell casing to a revolver or semiautomatic pistol, according to the affidavit.

Avans forced his way into Blackmon's home, then shot him, Robinson told Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green.

Blackmon's family and police agreed with the plea agreement, Robinson said.

Megan Thompson, Blackmon's mother, said it's devastating when a parent loses a child. It's still difficult for her to sleep, and she will be lost forever without her son, she said.

"He had the best hugs," she said. "I miss him so much."

The judge asked Avans if he wanted to speak before she sentenced him.

"No, ma'am," Avans replied.

The judge told Avans it would be his last opportunity because she was going to enter a no contact order prohibiting him from having any contact with Blackmon's family. She asked him again if there was anything he wanted to say.

"No, ma'am," Avans said again. "I don't have anything further to say, your honor."

Green sentenced Avans to 132 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Avans will have to serve at least 32 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Print Headline: Bella Vista man sentenced to 132 years in man’s killing

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