Willard Alfred Burnett of Plumerville was arrested February 24th in connection with the hit and run death of Travis Sponer that occurred in Conway County on May 17th, 2022. Travis Sponer was just 32 years old. Authorities initially released the description of the vehicle that hit Sponer as a 2012-2022 red or maroon Dodge Ram pickup truck. Authorities believed that the truck would have damage to the front passenger side around the headlight. 

Willard Burnett, Source: VineLink

Arkansas State Police began investigating on the morning of the 17th where they conducted an extensive search of the scene and took paint chips and vehicle debris into evidence. In June of 2022, Investigator Taylor Decker with the Mayflower Police Department received a tip regarding the vehicle. Decker drove to an address given by the tipster and was able to locate a maroon Dodge Ram truck with damage to the passenger side. Decker ran the VIN number located on the vehicle and it came back stolen out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Arkansas State Police Special Agent Matthew Foster met Decker at the address where Decker had detained a man that lived there. Lee Huguet, Willard Burnett’s son was subsequently arrested for Theft by Receiving and told the officers that his father had given him the truck. 

Lee Huguet, Source: VineLink

Willard Burnett filed a Mechanics Lien with the Faulkner County Circuit Court claiming that the owner of the truck owed him over $7,000. Burnett stated that he towed the truck to his shop in Plumerville from Menifee and then repaired the transmission on the truck. He also billed the owner for 140 days in storage at $7,000 which he was kind enough to lower by 50%. Sound bizarre enough? Well, buckle up.

Law enforcement then secured a search warrant for the vehicle and obtained paint samples which were subsequently sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia to compare to evidence left at the scene of the hit and run.

ASP Special Agent Foster interviewed Lee Huguet who stated that the truck belonged to his father, Willard Burnett and that Burnett had hit a deer in the truck. Huguet was supposed to fix the vehicle for Burnett.

Several other search warrants were filed by ASP Special Agent Foster for Huguet and Burnett’s phone records. The data received from Burnett’s cell phone provider placed Burnett in the area of the accident at the time of the accident.

The FBI crime lab at Quantico was able to determine that the paint chips left at the scene of the accident and the paint chips from the truck found in Huguet’s possession, “were consistent in all measured properties.”

On January 11th, 2023 Burnett was questioned by investigators and admitted that he was driving the 2017 Dodge Ram Pickup and he did hit Travis Sponer on his bicycle. Burnett told them that he did not stop when he hit Travis and instead he drove straight home. Burnett also drew a sketch of the accident and signed his name on it.

Now, if Willard Burnett’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because Burnett spent time in federal prison after his attorney allegedly laundered his drug trafficking money through the Democratic National Committee in the 1990’s. Burnett also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit capital murder for the death of David Cains who was set to testify against Burnett’s nephew. Cains was shot to death in front of his children in Pottsville at 6:30 am on September 4th, 1991.

The case made National headlines because Burnett’s attorney, Mark Cambiano, and former Conway County Sheriff Carl Poteete were both arrested and pleaded guilty to their roll in hiding Burnett’s money from his creditors. Poteete was sentenced to probation. Cambiano was stripped of his law license and sentenced to probation.

In 2011 Burnett requested to be let off of his supervised parole early because “I’m 75 now and I haven’t even had a traffic ticket. I go to church now and I’m doing good.” The Judge denied his request.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Travis Sponer at this time. We pray you are given the closure you so very much deserve.

Travis Sponer, Source: Tribute Archive Obituaries

From Travis’ Obituary:

“Travis Frank Sponer was born July 21, 1989 in Morrilton, AR; a son to Frank Sponer, Jr. and Susan (Sitton) Hogan. Travis passed away on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Oppelo, AR at the age of 32. Travis was a lifelong Conway County resident and was of the Baptist faith. He enjoyed playing basketball, dominoes, and cards; Rummy was his favorite. Most of all, the highlight of his life was spending time with his four children. Travis will be missed by those who knew and loved him.”

Source Here

Willard Burnett is now 87 years old and has been released on a $150,000 bond. “Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death or Injury” is a Class D Felony in Arkansas. Class D felonies are the least serious felonies, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Great job to Mayflower Police Department’s Taylor Decker and Arkansas State Police Special Agent Matthew Foster who did the work to close this case.