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Ark. man pleads not guilty to kidnapping his child

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The lawyer for an Arkansas man accused of crashing into his daughter's mother's car, stabbing the woman with an ice pick and making off with the 19-month-old girl said Thursday that her client broke no laws and didn't hurt the girl in any way.

Jasmine Crockett, a Texarkana attorney for Ralph Morrison III, said Morrison disputes the accounts witnesses gave the Howard County Sheriff's department Sunday about the events that led to his arrest.

"Right now he's pretty upset about the entire situation," Crockett said of her client. "He definitely disagrees with what has been conveyed to law enforcement about what happened."

According to the sheriff's department, witnesses said Morrison drove head-on into the car carrying Amaria Webster, their daughter Zahkairi Morrison, and two other people on Sunday near Tollette, then beat and stabbed Webster and fled into some nearby woods with the girl. State police issued a missing child alert, and Morrison turned himself into the U.S. Marshals Service in Texarkana on Tuesday. Police said Zahkairi was unharmed and Webster has been released from the hospital.

Crockett said police have it wrong.

"There was no court order that prevented him from having custody of his child," Crockett said. "His child was never harmed in any way."

Prosecutor Bryan Chesshir said he has not received the case file, and, for now, is sticking with the charges of four counts of aggravated assault, one count of second-degree battery and one count of kidnapping. Chesshir said police received conflicting statements on whether Morrison is Zahkairi's biological father, but added the kidnapping charge should remain regardless of the paternity if the abduction allegations are true.

"Once we have a complete file, we'll be able to identify other avenues to approach," Chesshir said.

Morrison pleaded not guilty to all the charges during his arraignment Wednesday in Howard County. Judge Tom Cooper increased Morrison's bond from $250,000 to $500,000 and set a trial date of July 24. In the meantime, Morrison is set for another bond hearing on April 25 and Crocket said she will try to reduce the amount of bail money needed.