'Baxter Bulletin' M.E. Arrested on Felony Charges For Helping Fugitive Brother

By: E&P Staff Kandra Branam, the managing editor of The Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home, Ark., has pleaded not guilty to charges she harbored her brother while he was on the lam, and warned him as police were circling in on him.

Branam, 43, was released on a $5,000 bond. She turned herself in on May 16. She has been suspended as managing editor of the daily Bulletin. Cheryl Whitsitt has been named acting managing editor.

Branam attended this year's American Society of Newspaper Editors convention to accept one of its first annual Diversity Pacesetter Awards for the newspaper's achievement in recruiting minorities in an overwhelmingly white circulation area.

According to an account in the Bulletin by staff writer Joanne Bratton, the charges against Branam of being an accomplice to fleeing, and two counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution, center around allegations that the journalist helped her brother, who was wanted in Colorado, elude authorities as he stayed at her house, and after he was arrested under a false identity.

Police say the brother, Thomas R. Wells, adopted the identity of Donald Dahlke, an infant who died in Baxter County, Ark., in 1969. Wells was wanted for failing to report to a correctional program.

Wells allegedly was living at Branam's house since late summer. He came to law enforcement attention last January, according to the Bulletin account, when he allegedly eluded a police chase.

Police went to Branam's house to look for Wells because that was the address given for his license plate. According to an affidavit quoted in the Bulletin, Branam told police the car belonged to a man who rented the basement apartment from here, but she would not given any more information about him without her attorney present.

Court documents allege telephone records show she called her brother's cell phone right after the visit from police. The brother was ultimately arrested Jan. 29.

Branam went to the Marian County jail, where her brother was held under the false name, and refused to cooperate when asked his real name, the Bulletin reported, citing a police officer.

Bulletin Publisher Betty Barker Smith said late Monday that she is unable to comment on Branam. ?Anytime you?re dealing with a legal situation or a personnel situation, you just can?t comment,? she said. ?It?s just an unfortunate situation, and that?s really all that I can say. I just hope it pans out right for all the parties involved.?


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