Harps Food Stores sued over 2015 murder of Baxter County couple

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 5,290 views 

The estate of a husband and wife who were murdered in November 2015 has filed a negligence lawsuit against Harps Food Stores, the Springdale-based company that sold the firearm used in the double homicide.

The complaint was filed Friday (Sept. 28) in Washington County Circuit Court, seeking unspecified damages following the slaying of 75-year-old Donald and 71-year-old LaDonna Rice.

They were killed at their home a few miles west of Mountain Home in Baxter County by Nicholas Ian Roos. According to the lawsuit, Roos went to Harps Store No. 135 at 924 E. Highway 62 in Mountain Home with Talmadge Beigh Pendergrass on Nov. 6, 2015. Roos told Pendergrass he could not legally purchase a 9mm handgun for another couple of months because of a previous confinement earlier that year at a mental institution.

Roos asked Pendergrass to buy the handgun for him, according to the filing. According to screen captures from Harps surveillance video including in the filing, Roos took cash out of a bag and handed it over to Pendergrass, who then applied to purchase the firearm. Pendergrass’ purchase was approved, and he took possession of the firearm.

Pendergrass stated on the application form he was the actual buyer when in fact he acquired the firearm on behalf of another person, which is against the law. Pendergrass, according to the filing, turned the gun over to Roos, who used the weapon the following day to kill the Rices.

The Harps clerk who sold the firearm was 17 years old, according to the complaint. The Mountain Home store is one of the company’s three locations in Arkansas that sells guns and sporting goods.

“As Harps knew or should have known, paying for a gun with someone else’s money is a strong indicator of a straw purchase, and that the transfer is a straw purchase,” the complaint states, referencing the practice of buying a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one. “Although Harps knew and had reason to know that there were multiple strong indicators of a straw sale, the Harps clerk ran the background check on Pendergrass rather than Roos.”

According to the Associated Press, Donald and LaDonna Rice were reported missing Nov. 7, 2015, after authorities found their home torched and truck stolen. The couple was later identified by remains found inside the burned home.

Roos pleaded guilty to capital murder on May 24, 2016, and was sentenced to life in prison. Two others were involved in the crime. Zach Tyler Grayham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Mikayla Mynk entered a guilty plea to aggravated robbery and three counts of theft and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Pendergrass was convicted this past November for the federal felony offense of making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.

When reached Friday, a representative of Harps Food Stores said the company was aware of the lawsuit but declined additional comment.