Bella Vista man ‘has nothing more to say’ to victim’s mother before being convicted of murder

BENTONVILLE – A Bella Vista man was sentenced to 132 years in prison after admitting to breaking into a man’s home and killing him.

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

Avans was charged as a repeat offender.

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

Shannon Schmidt told police he and Avans are friends, according to the affidavit of probable cause. Schmidt said Avans asked him to drive him to an address in Bentonville on April 27, 2021, 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.

According to the affidavit, Avans was in financial trouble after giving a friend power of attorney to have the friend collect bail and get Avans out of jail. The friend got the stimulus check from Avans but failed to rescue him from prison, the affidavit said.

Schmidt told police that Avans burned the shirt he was wearing in a fire pit when they returned to Schmidt’s house, it said.

A neighbor of Blackmon heard Blackmon screaming for help and found him lying in the street, the affidavit said.

A police officer saw an open door to an apartment at 501 NW B St., Blackmon’s apartment. According to the affidavit, officers saw blood on the living room door and floor, along with several bloodied pillows.

Police also found a used case from a revolver or semi-automatic pistol.

Avans broke into Blackmon’s home and then shot him, Robinson told Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green.

Blackmon’s family and police agreed with the plea deal, Robinson said.

Megan Thompson, Blackmon’s mother, said it is terrible when a parent loses a child. It’s still hard for her to sleep, and she’ll be lost forever without her son, she said.

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

The judge asked Avans to speak before she sentenced him.

“No, ma’am,” Avans replied.

The judge told Avans that this would be his last chance as she would introduce a restraining order banning him from contacting Blackmon’s family. She asked him again if he wanted to say anything else.

“No, ma’am,” Avans said again. “I have nothing more to say, Your Honor.”

Green sentenced Avans to 132 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Avans must serve a minimum of 32 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

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