Flint man accused of evidence tampering

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A Flint man was recently arrested in connection to a Smith County murder investigation, accused recently of attempting to destroy evidence in the case.

Dwayne Welch, 56, of Flint, was arrested by the Tyler Police Department Tuesday, June 12, and charged with Tampering/Fabricating with Physical Evidence, which is a third-degree felony charge.

According to law enforcement officials, the arrest of Welch is connected to the shooting death of Heath Bearden, 43, on Saturday, June 9.

A warrant for Welch’s arrest was issued by 114th District Court Judge Christi Kennedy, according to a news release. He was arrested without incident and booked into the Smith County Jail on bonds totaling $150,000.

Also arrested in the case was Larry Cowart, 40, of Tyler, who has been charged with murdering Bearden.

At approximately 2:20 a.m. Saturday, June 9, Smith County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to 15597 County Road 1145 in reference to a person with a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the news release.

While en route, deputies were notified the victim was being taken by private vehicle toward Texas Highway 64 West and Loop 323. The vehicle was pulled over by a deputy near the intersection of West Erwin and Loop 323 in Tyler.

Inside the vehicle, the deputy discovered a man, later identified as Bearden, who was unresponsive in the passenger seat. According to the sheriff’s department, it appeared that Bearden had been shot in the chest.

By the time EMS arrived at the scene, Bearden was dead, according to the sheriff’s department.

Witnesses were interviewed by detectives and identified Cowart as the suspect, telling investigators that several people were in a shop area at Cowart’s residence where Bearden had been shot.

An autopsy for Bearden was ordered by Smith County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Gary Alfred.

According to the news release from the Sheriff’s Office, Kennedy issued an arrest warrant for Cowart upon the submission of a probable-cause affidavit by a Smith County sheriff’s detective. Kennedy also recommended bond of $750,000 for Cowart.

A probable-cause affidavit also was submitted for a search warrant of the suspect’s vehicle and the residence, located on County Road 1145.

On Friday, June 29, Cowart posted a $150,000 bond and was released from the Smith County Jail. Welch remains in the Smith County Jail, as of time of press.

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