Coroner’s inquest ordered in Chambers' stabbing death by 'sword'
A coroner's inquest into the recent stabbing death of Gainesville resident Robert C. Chambers will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the upstairs courtroom at the Ozark County courthouse in Gainesville. Chambers died Feb. 12 at a home on County Road 524 near the Missouri - Arkansas state line after he was reportedly stabbed with a "sword."
The inquest will determine if a panel of Ozark County residents believe criminal charges should be filed for Chambers’ death or if the action was the result of non-criminal self-defense.
The coroner’s inquest, a process similar to convening a grand jury, involves calling up a panel of six Ozark County residents who will hear from witnesses and review evidence relating to the incident. At the conclusion of the inquest, the panel will render a verdict of whether criminal charges should be filed against the man who stabbed Chambers.
The man’s identity has not yet been released.
Unlike grand jury proceedings, a coroner’s inquest is open to the public.
The inquest will only determine if charges should be filed in the case, not if the man who stabbed Chambers is guilty or not guilty of a crime.
Reed told the Times that the decision to call a coroner’s inquest was made after the sheriff, several deputies and Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant reviewed the evidence in the case, which includes an autopsy report and the testimony of several witnesses who were at the residence near the state line when Chambers was stabbed.
Feb. 12 incident
Reed said a report about the stabbing that was aired last week by a Springfield broadcaster included incorrect information. Monday morning, he confirmed to the Times that the information shared here is correct.
According to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher’s log, a call came in at 4:20 a.m. that Wednesday. The log says, “Murder: Deceased male subject at this location. 667 County Road 524.”
Nine seconds later, a second call was received. That log says, “[Reporting party] states someone cut a male subject’s throat. Unknown if the subject is still alive or not.”
Details on who called the sheriff’s department were not listed in the log, so it is unclear if the call was made by two individuals or the same person.
Officers responded to the location and found Chambers lying outside the house near the back door with one stab wound to the chest.
Reed said four people were inside the home when Chambers and three other people showed up at the house around 4 a.m. to retrieve some property that belonged to a woman they knew.
One person went to the front door while Chambers and another man went to the back door. The pair reportedly tapped on the back door glass, waking a man who was sleeping in a back room.
The man reportedly woke to answer the back door, and a fight broke out between the three men. In the course of the fight, Chambers was stabbed with a long-bladed sword that was lying on a table located near the back door of the house.
Reed said all seven witnesses were interviewed after the incident.
The home where Chambers died is located in Missouri but is within “a few feet” of the Arkansas state line near Clarkridge, Reed said, adding that it is a home the sheriff’s department has responded to several times, including a recent incident in which several search warrants were executed.
Unrelated 2017 stabbing
The Feb. 12 incident was not the first time Chambers was stabbed, Reed said. He was also stabbed during an unrelated incident on Oct. 21, 2017, in the Town & Country Supermarket parking lot in Gainesville.
A 28-year-old Gainesville man was initially charged with first-degree assault in that case, but charges were later dropped at the preliminary hearing level.
According to the probable cause statement in that case, Nick Jones, who was an Ozark County Sheriff’s Deputy at the time, responded to the grocery store parking lot after a shopper called the sheriff’s department and said he saw a man stab another man.
When Jones arrived on scene, he was told that the victim, later identified as Chambers, had been given a ride to the Gainesville square. Jones drove to the square, where he found Chambers with multiple stab wounds to the neck, chest and back.
Chambers reportedly told the officer then that a fight had broken out between him and a man he knew. He said he’d had ongoing issues with the other man, who had pulled out a knife and stabbed him during the altercation.
Jones later interviewed the man accused of stabbing Chambers in the 2017 incident. The man told the officer that Chambers approached him while he was walking toward the front door of Town & Country. The man said Chambers swung at him but missed, and in response the man pulled out a knife and began swinging it at Chambers “wildly.” He said he stabbed Chambers with the pocket-knife three times, once in the neck and two other times in the stomach area.
Editor's note: This online story was edited to include corrected information that charges were dropped against the man who stabbed Chambers in 2017. The charges were dismissed as a result of a preliminary hearing in which Chambers did testify. This corrects information we have in this week's paper edition that states the charges were dropped after Chambers refused to testify for the prosecution or provide additional information to the Ozark County Sheriff's Department.