LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A man charged in the 2011 death of an Arkansas police dispatcher pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder on Monday.
Kevin Duck is accused of killing his girlfriend Dawna Natzke, a mother of three and a police dispatcher in the central Arkansas community of Hot Springs Village.
Duck appeared in court on Monday and pleaded not guilty, one of his attorneys, T. Clay Janske, said.
Janske said Duck did not kill Natzke, who was last seen leaving a Christmas party with Duck on Dec. 21, 2011. Volunteer searchers found Natzke's body days later on New Year's Eve.
Natzke, 46, died from blunt force trauma and drowning, according to an autopsy report cited in court documents.
A medical examiner said Natzke died within three to four hours of leaving the holiday party.
But prosecutors only recently charged Duck in Natzke's death.
Prosecutor Steve Oliver said Monday that it took a long time for an FBI expert to analyze cellphone records. Oliver said the case also changed hands from the local police to the county sheriff's office and then to his office, which conducted more interviews.
"When you take all those things in consideration, it just took a while to get there," Oliver said.
Authorities arrested Duck, 30, last month in Colorado. He is being held in Garland County jail on $250,000 bond. Janske said Duck is set to have a bond hearing on Dec. 30.
Duck went to the Hot Springs Village police the day after the party and said Natzke was missing, according to court documents. He told authorities that he and Natzke left the party and drove to Natzke's home.
"He stated he went to bed and Dawna left to go back to the party," a probable cause document says. "He then states he got up on the morning of December 22, 2011, at 7:30 a.m. and neither Dawna nor her vehicle were at the house."
A police dispatcher reached out to area hospitals and local law enforcement, but didn't have any luck, according to the probable cause document.
Then, a police sergeant "advised Duck nothing more could be done and if the agency heard from Natzke, Duck would be notified," according to the probable cause document.
Natzke didn't show up for work on Dec. 23, and authorities opened a missing person's case on her.
Hot Springs Village Police Chief Gary Adams declined to comment on Monday and referred questions to the local prosecutor.
Follow Jeannie Nuss on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss