Man gets 40-year term in Hot Springs fatal beating

HOT SPRINGS — A man who beat another man to death with a baseball bat last year has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty in Garland County Circuit Court.

Terry Eugene Hughes, 56, who has remained in custody in lieu of a $150,000 bond since his arrest, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder, punishable by up to life in prison, for the April 14, 2020, death of Joshua David Buck, 43, who was found dead inside his apartment at 307 Oakcliff St.

Hughes was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with 25 years suspended, and will have to serve 70{28ab41d673507bfe0daf970418d2e81f9476b3e139564442359ad7402c370b16}, or 10.5 years, before he is eligible for parole under the sentencing guidelines, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kara Petro said Wednesday.

The victim’s family approved the plea deal, Petro said, noting that the parole eligibility was better than if he had been convicted of second-degree murder.

“Plus he will have the suspended sentence over him if he paroles out,” Petro said, which is the same as probation.

“He was asserting self-defense because [Buck] had a bow and arrow underneath his body,” she said. “The bow and arrow were a decoration on the wall, so it’s hard to say if [Buck] did try to pull it on [Hughes] or it got pulled off the wall during the struggle.”

Petro said the evidence “clearly shows that even if it was self-defense, [Hughes] went too far.”

Hughes, who had no previous felony history, was arrested at the scene the day of the incident and had pleaded innocent to the charge July 7. A gag order limiting pretrial publicity in the case was issued that day by Judge Marcia Hearnsberger.

According to the probable cause affidavit, around 10:30 a.m. April 14 Hughes called 911 dispatchers and said there was a dead body at the apartment he was at on Oakcliff Street, but he didn’t know the exact address.

Dispatchers determined that Hughes was calling from the upstairs apartment at 207 Oakcliff, and officers were sent to the location. Before officers arrived, Hughes told the dispatcher that he knew the victim was dead because he had hit him in the head with a baseball bat.

When officers arrived, Hughes told them he had hit “Joshua” in the head with the bat and “kept hitting him with it.”

Buck was in his bedroom with obvious trauma to the back of his head and no signs of life. He was pronounced dead a short time later by Garland County Coroner Stuart Smedley, who noted that it appeared Buck had been dead for a couple of hours before Hughes called 911.

Detectives located a bloody bat in Buck’s bedroom and blood spatter in the apartment indicated there were “numerous blows to the head while the victim was on the floor,” the affidavit states.

Suspected blood also was seen on Hughes’ socks and pants at the time of his arrest.