Inmate on furlough accused of raping 17-year-old

BENTON COUNTY (KATV) - A man serving 45 years for domestic battery is accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl while on a work furlough in Northwest Arkansas.

An arrest affidavit claims John Scott Landingham sexually assaulted his 17-year-old mentally-challenged niece near a wooded area in Bella Vista, on the hood of a yellow Chevy Aveo. The two had returned from Missouri to buy cigarettes.

Landingham was arrested Wednesday at the Randall L. Williams Correctional Facility in Pine Bluff. Authorities said DNA evidence eventually linked the 41-year-old to the reported rape in Benton County on Sunday, June 12, 2011.

Landingham was serving a nearly 4-year work furlough at the Washington County Jail, where he would be assigned various tasks there rather than serve that time in a state penitentiary.

"We want these people to be different, to act differently," said Dina Tyler with the Arkansas Department of Correction, "and so we have to show them respect and compassion."

Furloughs are given to just one percent of inmates, according to ADC. Those inmates must have a positive, clean record while serving time in prison.

Landingham arrived at the Washington County Jail in September 2007 as part of a 309 work program and was released back to ADC on June 14, 2011. The alleged attack occurred two days before his furlough ended.

Tyler stresses furlough violations are even rarer than the furlough itself. Inmates who abuse privileges are never again allowed on a furlough, which are granted to allow select inmates a chance to be closer to family.

"If you're an inmate chances are good that you have coping issues, you have some anger management issues, and who do you think you're going to take it out on?" said Tyler. "You're going to take it out on the people in dressed in blue."

Authorities are unclear if the convicted batterer was supervised on June 12, while he was visiting his mother.

ADC provides armed supervision for furloughed inmates on an emergency or meritorious furlough. The department, however, does not pay for any of the accommodations and family members are responsible for all costs.

Supervision during work furloughs is not always guaranteed.

Benton County prosecuting attorney Van Stone tried in 2007 to block Landingham's furlough request citing a history of violence, including cutting his wife with a butcher knife in 2002.

"It was our position then and now, that he's one of those individuals that needs to be behind the forwalls of the prison for as long as possible," said Stone, via telephone.

Stone says this alleged abuse of furlough privileges could affect inmates in prisons across the state.

"Maybe it is time to take a second look at how these things are done," Stone added.

For Dina Tyler, she believes the programs give well-behaved inmates a reward they've typically earned.

"Remember what we're trying to do," she said. "We're trying to get them ready to come home."

Landingham is in Benton County awaiting his arraignment on Monday. He is expected to be released back to the state prison to wait for his trial.