The killing of Ernest Hoskins: a matter of intent 

In November 2012, Ernest Hoskins was shot and killed by his boss during a business meeting. With the killer now charged with manslaughter, a family's search for justice highlights the often blurry line between recklessness and murder.

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At first, Watson said, she thought pulling the gun might be some kind of joke. But that feeling ended when Reynolds pointed the gun at Hoskins and pulled the trigger. When it didn't go off, Watson said, "he cocked it back and pointed it straight back at his head and pulled the trigger."

Watson doesn't mention the sound, but in a kitchen, it would have been deafening. The .44-caliber bullet slammed into Ernest Hoskins' head at near point-blank range. A Crime Lab report cited in the arrest affidavit lists Hoskins' cause of death as "Injury to Cervical Spinal Cord and Right Common Carotid Artery due to Gunshot Wound of Head," but the damage done probably doesn't translate well to paper, either.

Watson said that Reynolds ran to the bathroom to get towels, and called the police almost immediately. "We all got up and started freaking out because he'd just shot him," Watson told The Grio. "The others ran outside along with Chris. He ran outside too. I stayed behind to see if I could help Ernest, to see if he was alive still. After I checked to see if he was still alive, I went outside too." Watson said that Hoskins was already dead when she checked him. Watson claimed that Reynolds told the three witnesses that they should leave before the police arrived.

While Watson said in January that she still didn't understand why the shooting happened, she said her mind has changed since the shooting when it comes to Reynolds' intent. When the police interviewed her at the scene, she said, she told them she didn't know whether Reynolds had shot Hoskins on purpose or not.

"At that time, I told them I didn't know, because I didn't understand why someone could just point a gun at someone and shoot them. So I told them I didn't know if it was on purpose or not. ... After sitting down and thinking about it, yes, I do think he did it on purpose."

Nikki Hoskins got off work just before 10 p.m. on Nov. 9, already concerned because she hadn't heard a word from her husband since that afternoon. They had a date to go to TGIFriday's in North Little Rock, and she texted Ernest, asking him where he was. A minute later, the phone rang with a strange number. She answered it, and it was a State Police investigator. The investigator asked her how quickly she could get back to her house. Thinking it might be some kind of prank, she called Ernest's phone after hanging up with the man.

"It went straight to voicemail," she said, "and that never, ever happened. ... Something just clicked and I thought: 'Go home, Nikki.' When I pulled up, I saw a car on the side of my house that looked like Ernest's car, and I thought: 'Oh, God. They play too much.' But as soon as I got to the corner where my house is, I saw the state trooper's car." The front door opened, and her sister came out, sobbing. When she got inside, an investigator laid his hand on her shoulder, then told her that Ernest had been killed by his boss, Chris Reynolds. "I instantly hit the ground," she said.

When she put herself back together enough to listen again, Nikki said, she asked the investigators where Reynolds was being held. "He said: 'Well, they had him for questioning, and then they let him go.' I said: 'Are you f-ing serious?' I didn't say f-ing. 'This man killed my husband, and he's at home asleep? Seriously? How does that work? How does that happen?' [He said] 'Well, we didn't have enough to charge him.' You just told me that you have a gun, three witnesses, and his confession and you're going to tell me that's not enough? In what world is that not enough to arrest somebody?' "


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