Property manager from hell arrested for rape, drugs, human trafficking

Arkansas tenants say Tom Kelso cut off utilities and demanded sexual favors to restore them

Briarwood Apartments in Searcy, Arkansas with a figure of a man in handcuffs
Briarwood Apartments in Searcy, Arkansas (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty, Google Maps)

An Arkansas apartment manager faces a litany of charges after tenants claimed he abused them, threatened them and cut off utilities before demanding sexual favors to restore service.

Tom Kelso, 72, of Searcy, Arkansas, was arrested earlier this month and charged with rape and three counts of human trafficking in addition to drug and firearms offenses, all of which were allegedly committed at Briarwood Apartments, the complex he managed in the city, KARK reported

His bond was set at $650,000.

Another woman, Lori Leavell, was arrested for helping Kelso carry out the crimes, police said. 

The arrests came after Searcy police and officers from a state drug task force executed search warrants on Kelso’s residence, his office and a storage unit after receiving complaints of drug and human trafficking.

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The searches turned up guns, methamphetamine, fentanyl and drug paraphernalia, all of which were seized, police said.

Tenants told KARK, a local NBC affiliate, that they were relieved Kelso was finally arrested and said they had long observed his abuse or suffered under it directly.

“I would like to see justice come to him cause this is not right,” resident Tesha Aguilar told the outlet. “We shouldn’t be afraid to come out of our apartments whether he’s on the premises or not.”

Kelso could face additional charges. After KARK first aired its story on his arrest, Searcy Police Chief Steve Hernandez told the outlet that 20 more alleged victims contacted the department.

Ted Glanzer