Shawna Cash’s defense gives jurors a glimpse of her childhood

Allegations of molestation, inadequate care shared with jurors

Shawna Cash
Shawna Cash

BENTONVILLE — Shawna Cash and her siblings were molested by their stepgrandfather, her brother testified Friday during the sentencing phase of her murder trial.

Cash’s defense is presenting evidence and testimony in an effort to convince a jury to recommend Cash spend the rest of her life in prison without the benefit of parole instead of a death sentence.

The jury on Thursday found Cash, 25, of Pine Bluff guilty of capital murder, fleeing, two counts of aggravated assault and obstructing governmental operations. The seven women and five men believe Cash intentionally killed Pea Ridge police officer Kevin Apple in 2021 when she hit him with a Jeep Cherokee and dragged his body 149 feet.

Christopher Cash, who is Shawna Cash’s older brother, described his and his siblings’ childhood. He has another sister, and Shawna Cash is the youngest sibling. He said they moved often and lived in Arizona, Illinois and Arkansas.

Katherine Streett, one of Shawna Cash’s attorneys, presented some reports from the Arkansas Department of Human Services concerning the children’s care and treatment.

Christopher Cash testified he and his two sisters were sexually molested by their stepgrandfather.

A 5-year-old Shawna Cash said in 2003 she had stayed the night with her stepgrandfather and he inappropriately touched her but stopped when she told him it hurt. Christopher Cash read the portion of his sister’s statement from a report.

Christopher Cash said he remembered when his stepgrandfather disappeared, and he was never arrested or prosecuted in connection with molesting the three children.

Streett also presented reports from a nurse at Shawna Cash’s elementary school.

In one report, the nurse said Cash came to Waldron Elementary School with ticks all over her and infected tick bites.

Another report stated Cash came to school filthy with ticks and old tick bites. The nurse reported treating Cash daily for tick bites and even having to pull ticks off her body. The nurse also said in the report school staff had bought at least three dozen pairs of panties for Cash since she would come to school not wearing any.

Some of the reports detailed Cash was born with a stomach issue, for which her mother failed to provide proper medical care.

Christopher Cash testified his family had a lot of interactions with caseworkers from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Streett questioned Christopher Cash about a report concerning his stepfather sexually abusing his sisters. Shawna Cash was 12 years old at the time.

Christopher Cash said he was living in Arizona and called his mother and she told him his stepfather had been caught molesting his two sisters.

He read from a report where Shawna Cash’s older sister reported her stepfather started sexually abusing her when she was 12 years old. The older sister was afraid to report it, but told her mother after learning her stepfather had solicited her younger sister.

Christopher Cash said his mother and stepfather later divorced.

He also read from another report that 12-year-old Shawna Cash said she did not feel safe because of her mother’s drinking and missed school to take care of her mother because of her drinking.

Streett also questioned Christopher Cash about Shawna Cash’s mental health and said she was diagnosed as a child with post traumatic stress disorder.

Christopher Cash read from another report describing Shawna Cash as bipolar. He said he has never taken any medications for mental health reasons, but both his sisters took medications.

Christopher Cash testified it was difficult for Shawna Cash to make friends because of the stomach and bowel issues. He said other children teased his sister because she smelled due to her health issues.

He dropped his head and started crying when he described his stepfather physically abusing his sister because of her health issues.

Christopher Cash testified he wanted to be a better father to his children because of his childhood.

He told Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Robinson he had been to the jail a few times to visit his sister and offered his sister his support and assistance when she was going through troubling and difficult times.

He also testified his sister had been violent in the past with their mother. He added methamphetamine was his sister’s drug of choice.

Teachers testify

Charlene Moudy, a special education teacher at Waldron Elementary, testified Shawna Cash was in her kindergarten class in 2003 and 2004.

“Shawna was just a little blue-eyed blonde baby,” Moudy said. “She was always smiling. She was sweet.”

Moudy said she never had any behavioral problems with Cash, but she often had bathroom issues and had to be sent to the nurse. Moudy said she suspected Cash was being sexually abused.

Moudy remembered Cash being clingy and staying at her side instead of playing at recess with the other children. She also remembered her sending Cash to the nurse to be treated for insect bites.

Stacey Cox, Cash’s first grade teacher, described her as a sweet child and a loner but said she never misbehaved. Cox remembered Cash’s health and bathroom issues.

‘That’s my daughter’

Amanda Smith of Gravette testified Cash and her son met when they were younger and she spent time in her home. Smith testified Cash’s mother was moving out of state and her mother asked for her daughter to be allowed to stay with Smith’s family.

Smith occasionally glanced in Cash’s direction while testifying. She said Cash stayed with her for three years and she learned her son and Cash were using methamphetamine.

“Did you treat Shawna like family?” Streett asked.

“That’s my daughter,” a tearful Smith said, looking in Cash’s direction.

Smith testified Cash was arrested for hitting her, a misdemeanor, but the two reconciled.

“Amanda, do you love Shawna?” Streett asked.

“With all my heart,” Smith replied.

Meth’s impact

The defense also presented a witness to tell the jury about the impact of methamphetamine on the human brain.

Carl Dawson, a Springfield, Mo., counselor who works in the field of substance abuse, trauma and post-traumatic stress, used a Power Point presentation to explain to the jury how methamphetamine affects the brain. He said the brain is sensitive to toxins.

Dawson said chronic use of meth causes brain damage and impacts the decision-making centers of the brain. He said the damage causes paranoia and creates fight and flight reactions.

Dawson told the jury his presentation is not intended to excuse behavior but to explain behavior.

He did not know whether Cash had any brain damage as a result of her meth use. Dawson said he also did not know the extent of Cash’s use of the drug.

The defense will continue presenting witnesses Monday. Streett said she has three more witnesses. Robinson said he may have three or four rebuttal witnesses.

Closing statements could begin Monday afternoon. Each attorney will have an hour to give their remarks to the jury.

Apple and Brian Stamps, then a Pea Ridge police officer, heard a dispatch about 11:30 a.m. June 26, 2021, to be on the lookout for a Jeep fleeing from Rogers police. They spotted the Jeep at the White Oak Station in Pea Ridge, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Stamps stopped his patrol vehicle behind the Jeep, and Apple stopped his car in front of the Jeep.

Shawna Cash hit Stamps’ vehicle, then sped forward and hit Apple, who got caught under the vehicle. Stamps testified he fired four shots at the Jeep after seeing Apple underneath it.

Cash was later apprehended by a Bella Vista police officer after she crashed the Jeep and fled into the woods.