Woman cleared of wrongdoing, officer fired after withholding evidence

Melissa Brown

FAULKNER COUNTY (KATV)--A Mayflower Police officer is fired, after a prosecutor said he withheld evidence regarding an investigation. Officer Mark Winchester was terminated this morning. Winchester conducted an investigation in May, which led to the arrest of Melissa Brown, 33, who is now cleared of any wrongdoing.

The officer claimed she was pretending to be a Mayflower tornado victim and taking donations for her own benefits.

Mayflower Police Lieutenant Sam Boren said, Winchester was fired Tuesday morning, after a prosecuting attorney ordered the department to not allow Winchester to be involved in any further felony cases, not even as a witness.

Following this order, Lt. Boren said, Winchester lost overall effectiveness and could not fulfill his full duties.

Brown was arrested in May for allegedly pretending to be a Mayflower tornado victim and collecting hundreds of dollars worth of donations.

However, after Officer Mark Winchester turned in his investigation to the Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, a prosecutor found several inconsistencies in his report.

"It was enough for us to know that this can't go forward, and not only can the case not go forward, but we can no longer accept felony submissions from this particular officer," said 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney, Cody Hiland.

When Brown was arrested, she was facing one count of theft of property, but was never charged after Hiland found that Winchester withheld evidence in the case.

"Not only is Melissa Brown innocent, or not guilty of a crime, she actually helped with the tornado relief, in fact a pastor from the Methodist Church wrote her a letter talking about her service for three weeks in the community and what a great job she had done and what a sacrifice she had made," said Hiland.

"She served in Iraq you know doing emergency services, doing just the same things that she was doing there, so she's uniquely qualified in that regard and was doing a lot of work and getting a lot of help to folks, unfortunately she had dated this police officer's son," said Brown's Attorney Bill James.

Another piece of evidence Winchester failed to disclose to Hiland said James.

"Very concerned about the integrity of the entire file and so it had to do with evidence at her home and so there were some significant issues there," added Hiland.

James attorney did reach out to Brown, but he says she did not want to speak with Channel 7.

Although he did add, that since the arrest, she had to move from her home and is now just trying to move on from this. James said, he's not aware of Brown wanting to sue anyone.

Prosecutors are now reviewing all cases filed or involving Officer Winchester, they have already dismissed one and are working on dismissing another.

Winchester once worked for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office as a deputy, left the department in 2009, but stayed on as a reserve. Lieutenant Carl Minden confirmed that while Winchester was a reserve in 2011, Winchester resigned while under investigation. No further information on that case is available at this time.

*A request was made to Brown's attorney for other photos of Brown, but no other pictures were provided by the time this story aired.