Arkansas man convicted of making false statement in acquiring firearm involved in Midway couple’s murder
Talmadge Pendergrass, 28, of Mountain Home, Arkansas, has been convicted in federal court of making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm in a case connected to the Nov. 7, 2015, murder of an elderly Midway, Arkansas, couple. Pendergrass is alleged to have purchased the 9mm handgun from Harp’s Grocery Store in Mountain Home that Nicholas Roos used to fatally shoot both 75-year-old Donald and 71-year-old LaDonna at their Midway home during an apparent robbery attempt.
Video surveillance of the Mountain Home Harp’s store, filed Nov. 6, 2015, reportedly shows Roos attempt to purchase the handgun himself; however the sale was denied due to a failed background check. The video footage then shows Roos taking cash from a Crown Royal bag and handing it to Pendergrass, who applied to purchase the firearm.
Pendergrass was approved and took possession of the pistol. A press release from the Baxter County (Arkansas) Sheriff’s Department says there is no evidence that Pendergrass knew of Roos’ intent to murder the couple with the weapon.
The Rices were long-time clients of Marketa Hambelton, owner-operator of The Hair Shop in Gainesville. Hambelton told the Times shortly after the murders that she had cut their hair every six weeks for more than 10 years.
Original murder charges
Roos, 24, pleaded guilty in Baxter County, Arkansas, court in May 2016 to his role in the double murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Co-defendants Mikayal Mynk, 20, of Gassville and Zack Tyler Grayham, 23, were also charged with the murder. Mynk accepted a plea agreement with the court Aug. 9 and pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property. The capital murder charge was dropped as part of the agreement. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, with a 15-year portion of that sentence suspended, equaling a 20-year term for her in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Grayham pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and two counts of second-degree murder in August 2016. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison with the provision that he must serve at least 14 years before any consideration of parole.
The case came to light when the Rices’ home was found burned to the ground on Nov. 7, 2015. Initially, the couple could not be found, but their remains were later located in the burned rubble of the home. According to The Baxter Bulletin, the affidavit in the case says a tip led to the arrest of the trio after a neighbor told authorities two men in their 20s had walked up to his home and asked for a ride, explaining that their girlfriend had dropped them off to find a nearby fishing hole. Neither of the men had any fishing gear with them. The neighbor drove them to Mynk’s residence.
When speaking with investigators, Roos initially refused to speak and asked for an attorney but later told officers that Mynk dropped him and Grayham off at the Rice home. The two men rang the doorbell, and when LaDonna answered they told the elderly woman they had car trouble and asked for help.
LaDonna called for her husband, and when he came to the door, Roos reportedly pulled a gun and pointed it at Donald. When Donald grabbed the gun, Roos shot him in the face, the affidavit says. Roos reportedly told officers that when LaDonna began screaming, he pushed her to the floor, and while she was looking at him, he shot her in the head. The pair looted the home while LaDonna was dying, the statement says, and they set a couch on fire in an upstairs room. Then they grabbed a gas can and drove away from the home in the Rices’ truck.
Roos reportedly drove to the home he shared with Mynk, and they unloaded all the stolen items and then drove the truck to a field and set it on fire. Roos said he walked from the vehicle fire to a nearby home and asked an elderly man to give them a ride back to the Roos trailer.
Grayham told authorities a different story, according to The Bulletin. He explained that when LaDonna answered the door, the men said their car had broken down and Roos immediately entered the home. Grayham reportedly told officers he heard two gunshots, and Roos came back to the door and told Grayham that if he didn’t help steal the items and load them in the truck he would shoot him.