Man enters guilty plea in boy's rape, death in exchange for life sentence

Wednesday, April 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ A man charged with masterminding the fatal rape of a 13-year-old boy pleaded guilty Wednesday in a deal with prosecutors that spares his life.

Davis Don Carpenter, 39, was charged in the Sept. 26, 1999, rape and death of Jesse Dirkhising. Prosecutors said Carpenter diagrammed an attack carried out by Carpenter's lover, Joshua Brown.

The state sought execution for both men, but Brown was sentenced to life in prison without parole last month after being found guilty of first-degree murder and rape.

Carpenter's deal, approved Wednesday by Circuit Judge David Clinger, gave him the same life penalty on the murder count and another life sentence on the rape count.

Brown, 23, told police that he bound Jesse with duct tape and raped him with a variety of objects, including food, but never intended for the seventh-grader to die.

Medical examiners said Jesse died of positional asphyxia _ being unable to breathe because of the way he was bound on Brown's bed. Also cited was an overdose of an anti-depressant: Jesse was too drugged to move to a position where he could catch his breath.

In his police interviews, Brown said Carpenter had directed the assault but did not take part. In a jailhouse interview last week, however, Brown told The Associated Press that Carpenter participated.

After the interview, prosecutors talked to Brown about testifing at Carpenter's trial, but Brown made no promise to testify.

Carpenter has maintained that he was asleep during much of the overnight assault and was awakened only when Jesse was found unconscious after Brown took a break from the attack to eat a sandwich. A witness at Brown's trial, however, said she saw Carpenter at her all-night grocery store buying duct tape.

Negotiations on Carpenter's request for a plea bargain intensified after Brown's conviction and sentencing.

Dirkhising's death had drawn protesters who say it deserves as much outrage as the case of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who prosecutors say was beaten to death in 1998 because he was a homosexual.