PINE BLUFF — As state and local officials continue to search for escaped prison inmate Timothy Buffington, a key witness against Buffington in his 1999 murder trial said Tuesday he is apprehensive that Buffington could be coming after him.
Buffington, 47, walked away from the Pine Bluff Complex on Saturday evening and a search of a heavily wooded area nearby has so far been unsuccessful. He was serving a 20-year sentence for first-degree murder from Logan County and had been in prison for 15 years. He was a trusty, a special, trusted status within the prison system that let him work without constant supervision.
Buffington was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 in the shooting death of his ex-wife, Rhonda Combs, 23, who was shot in the back of the head while she sat in a pickup with her boyfriend near the Booneville city limits.
That man, Wayne Fletcher, said in a phone interview Tuesday that after Combs was shot, he drove to the Booneville police station where he contacted police.
He said he saw Buffington shoot Combs and had to testify against him in court.
“I was pretty upset when I found out he had escaped, and I’m still upset,” Fletcher said. “He’s been locked up this whole time and I thought, ‘What if he’s coming after me?’”
He said Combs and Buffington were involved in a custody battle over their two children. Combs had custody of a girl while Buffington had custody of a boy that she was also trying to get custody of.
“They had been divorced for a few years and she had been married and divorced after that, so it wasn’t like they were still married,” he said.
Fletcher also said he had not been contacted by anyone from the Logan County Sheriff’s Office since Buffington’s escape.
“None of the sheriff’s department people or the sheriff came out to tell me,” he said. “A friend told me about it after seeing it on Facebook.”
Fletcher said the sheriff’s department should have contacted him by telephone to be sure that he was all right but that hasn’t been done.
An attempt to contact the sheriff’s office at Booneville late Tuesday afternoon was unsuccessful.
Wilson said Tuesday afternoon that corrections officials have contacted law enforcement agencies in areas where Buffington was known to have contacts or relatives.