Bateman’s Battle


Lance Brownfield

Still image from an upcoming documentary about the “Breaking Bad” case by Lance Brownfield.

After two years of legal troubles and his name cleared in court, Terry David Bateman sees a semi-certain future for himself and his family for the first time in a long time. The 47-year-old former HSU chemistry professor of 10 years with a Ph.D. in synthetic chemistry has found himself spending more time in antique shops than labs these days.

“The first year I was on house arrest,” said Bateman. “Couldn’t leave the house. And after that, I was not allowed to leave the county. So it restricted where I could go, what I could do.”

Bateman actually began antiquing before he was ever arrested, starting a business with his wife and former friend Bradley Rowland (who was also arrested alongside Bateman.)

According to Bateman, the relationship between Rowland and Bateman soured about a year before the chemical spill occurred in an HSU lab that Rowland used to teach in that led to their arrest for the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

When Rowland came to Henderson, Bateman was part of the committee to hire him in 2014. The two did not have that much to do with each other the first year. He had issues with faculty evaluations and getting along with other faculty members. Bateman was unofficially made a mentor to Rowland and helped him to adjust to life in Arkadelphia, where he had no family or friends.

“Really until about a year, or so, before we were arrested,” Bateman said. “We were pretty good friends. We had a falling out. He’d had, what I felt, was an improper relationship with a student. He acknowledged that and broke that off. Then shortly thereafter engaged in another relationship with an underage student that we had a major falling out over and never really recovered from.”

As several former students testified last month, on the night of the spill, Oct. 8, 2019, a strong chemical odor filled the third floor of the Donald W. Reynolds Science Center, making several people sick.

Bateman was getting ready for bed when his son Jason received a Snapchat from a friend and fellow chemistry major reporting the smell coming from a lab. Smells coming from labs are not that uncommon. When Bateman arrived, Rowland was already there. He’d put activated charcoal down to absorb the chemical, which is standard protocol for most spills. Rowland claimed to have everything under control, so Bateman went home unaware that the spill was far more dangerous than what usually takes place in an average university classroom.

“That was all I knew about that spill until our trial when Brad testified in court that he’d been making benzyl cyanide in the lab,” Bateman said. “I’d never heard that version of events. I was never asked a single question by university police. At my trial, the prosecutor said that I refused to talk to university police, but the university police never said that. It’s never in any transcript. That was a complete fabrication on the part of the prosecuting attorney.”

Bateman retains that he did speak with Norman Kemper with the Arkansas State Crime Lab but that he was never interrogated by any agency like Rowland was.

“It was made very clear to me early on,” Bateman said. “That the prosecutor was not in a hurry to try the case.”

After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury found Bateman not guilty on all counts. Little Rock attorney Bill James represented Bateman in the two-day trial.

He believes that his former friendship with Rowland may have been the reason that he was suspected to be involved but that there may have been more behind the motivations of the then-new prosecuting attorney Dan Turner.

“First and foremost, I was innocent,” said Bateman. “And the prosecution, the case that they put forward, was based largely on another person’s testimony that had admittedly lied on numerous occasions. The last version of events that he eventually told in court, he’d never told anyone until the Tuesday before court. So I think that the jury saw the case in its entirety and felt that I was innocent.”

Chief of University Police Johnnie Campbell, Rowland’s lawyer Clint Mathis and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Turner have no comment while Sheriff Jason Watson and then Interim Henderson President Elaine Kneebone have not responded to attempts at contact.