Hot Springs mother hopes for stronger charges after sons’ shooting deaths

The mother of Tyson Stewart and Kason Porter fears race may be playing a role in the lack of homicide charges.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — A couple at the center of a deadly August shooting in Hot Springs remain free on bond after their arrests on gun and drug charges. 

The mother of the two Mountain Pine half-brothers who died in the drug-related incident is angry that homicide charges have not been filed.

“We have so many questions that are unanswered,” said Constance Matlock, who joined about two dozen supporters for a recurring Sunday protest near the Hot Springs Police Department.

Among the unanswered questions is whether the two people involved in shooting Tyson Stewart and Kason Porter will soon be locked up again and charged with homicide.

Last week, Braxton Gravett and his wife Madison Akers turned themselves in on gun and drug charges. On Aug. 21, evidence shows— and the family says— Stewart and Porter drove to meet Gravett on Twin Points road to sell and buy marijuana.

Stewart’s step-father says his son smoked the drug recreationally, but had moved past trouble he encountered as a teenager when he was a star athlete on the Mountain Pine High football team.

Mike Porter described his sons’ “mistake” in getting involved, but said Stewart wanted one last quick way to make cash with a new baby on the way.

“We’re not putting our sons on pedestals,” said Matlock. “We raised good boys. We worked hard to raise good boys, but we know teenagers are teenagers. Boys will be boys.”

But what happened in August went beyond teenage mischief. According to the family, an argument or disagreement prompted either Gravett or Akers to shoot. Police say it appears Stewart or Porter tried to barge into the house.

That question over whether there was forced entry appears to be what has held up any homicide charges. 

When Hot Springs police responded they say they saw drug paraphernalia, marijuana plants and equipment for growing them, as well as four weapons.

That gun and drug evidence is what led county prosecutor Michelle Lawrence to charge Gravett and Akers with counts of simultaneous possession and running a drug house.

But Matlock and the family’s supporters fear there’s a racial reason that these charges took three months to be filed and that homicide charges have not been filed.

“If this was my Black family, and a Caucasian woman and a Caucasian man came into my Black household, and my sons killed two white people, we’re all going to jail,” she said.

Lawrence says that’s not true and stressed that the investigation continues.

“I took an oath to uphold standards and bring charges based only on the evidence I have,” said Lawrence, who has been in the 18th Judicial East Circuit office since 1994. 

“I bring charges regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. My heart goes out to anyone who loses a loved one in a violent situation. I’m a mother too.”

Court records show only Gravett is represented by an attorney. Brett Miller said he is hoping to evaluate tapes of interrogations in the case to see if he can represent both Gravett and Akers without any conflicts of interest.

“I can say that these charges levied against them are absurd,” Miller said. “The affidavit filed to lodge the charges against them is misleading at best.” 

Matlock and her husband say they have been in regular contact with the detective in charge of the case. He, too, has stressed that evidence continues to be evaluated and the case remains open.

But stress is the hardest part right now for Matlock.

“My whole life has been devastated,” she said. “I just feel like everything that can be done has not been done.”

A spokesperson for Hot Springs police also expressed frustration, but not over the investigation. Cpl. Patrick Langley wants to dispel some of the recurring internet rumors surrounding the case, saying Gravett has no relatives or connections to the HSPD, and he was not a confidential informant.

Cpl. Langley also added that the department does not maintain a “safe house,” so rumors that Gravett has been protected in one are unfounded.

“We hear the community’s frustration,” Cpl. Langley said. “But cases like this aren’t like what you see on TV and they don’t get solved in an hour.”

No court dates have been announced in this case. Lawrence said her office was working to get back up to speed after a positive case of coronavirus on Friday forced her into quarantine and the staff to work from home.