Mental health focus of hearing for woman accused of killing Pea Ridge officer

Mental health, substance abuse the focus of hearing

Shawna Cash
Shawna Cash

BENTONVILLE -- A local circuit judge Wednesday granted prosecutors access to a Medicaid record of a Pine Bluff woman accused of killing a Pea Ridge police officer.

Judge Brad Karren issued the ruling at a hearing in Shawna Cash's capital murder case.

Cash, 24, is charged with capital murder, escape, fleeing, two counts of aggravated assault, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, criminal mischief, obstructing governmental operations and reckless driving.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. She's accused of killing Pea Ridge police officer Kevin Apple in 2021.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 29.

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Robinson filed a motion seeking records concerning Cash's mental health and substance abuse history.

Robinson said Cash's mental health and substance abuse history will be issues in her trial. He noted one of the defense's expert witnesses planned to testify about substance abuse.

Katherine Streett said the expert witness will testify only about the impact of substance abuse on the brain. Streett said the expert will not interview Cash or be provided any of her mental health or substance about records.

Streett said the expert is only a witness for sentencing purposes. She said any mental health or substance abuse issues won't be used as a defense in the case, but only as mitigation evidence for sentencing.

Robinson said the records are needed because other defense witnesses could testify about Cash's substance abuse and mental health history.

Streett said the defense has a Medicaid spreadsheet that shows Cash was diagnosed when she was 11 years old with post-traumatic stress disorder, and she was treated for a year.

Streett said she didn't have the actual medical records concerning Cash's treatment for the disorder, and the defense planned to use the spreadsheet at trial to establish the disorder.

Robinson said it was his first time hearing about Cash's diagnosis as a child, but Streett said the information is also contained in records from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. She said the defense and prosecutors both have those records.

Karren said he may have to exclude the defense from using the information if it is not provided to prosecutors.

Streett first said she was willing to provide the spreadsheet to the prosecutor, but later said she was hesitant because of the prosecutor's belief he could subpoena the records.

Karren ordered the defense to provide the spreadsheet to the prosecutors.

The judge also ruled prosecutors can have access to Cash's mental health and medical records, but the items are not to come from the defense's case file.

Apple and fellow Pea Ridge officer Brian Stamps responded to a call about 11:30 a.m. June 26, 2021, to be on the lookout for a Jeep fleeing from Rogers police. They spotted the Jeep at the White Oak Station in Pea Ridge, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Cash was in the driver's seat and Elijah Andazola was a passenger, according to court documents. The two officers parked on both ends of the Jeep, which was at the gas pumps, and attempted to speak with Cash and Andazola, according to the affidavit.

Cash rammed one of the police vehicles, then drove over Apple -- dragging him 149 feet -- and fled west on Slack Street, according to court documents.

Apple, 53, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Andazola, 20, of Bentonville is charged with accomplice to capital murder and escape. Prosecutors have waived the death penalty in his case.

Andazola's jury trial is scheduled to begin March 5 in Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green's courtroom.

Cash and Andazola are both being held without bond in the Benton County Jail.

  photo  Shawna Cash

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