A trial over a gang-related slaying ended abruptly Wednesday when two defendants accepted plea deals to lesser charges.
Matthew "King Red Dog" Robey, said to be a high-level member of the Latin Kings in Lexington, was accused of ordering younger members of the gang to kill Luis "Loco" Quiroz, 19.
Prosecutors said Julio Vargas-Torres, 18, communicated Robey's order and supplied the handgun.
Robey, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree complicity to manslaughter, and prosecutors recommended he serve 20 years in prison. Robey also pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, for which prosecutors recommended he serve one year.
Vargas pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation. Prosecutors recommended five years.
Vargas, in pleading guilty, said he failed to stop the killing. He also admitted to driving the shooter away from the scene.
Robey said he ordered gang members to beat up Quiroz. He did not admit to ordering his death.
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said the case relied on testimony from participants whom jurors might not find credible. No physical evidence linked Robey to the crime.
"We realized there was a possibility that this Robey guy could walk," Larson said. "That's not the message we want to send these gangsters. We don't want somebody involved with killing somebody to just beat the charge and go back on the streets."
Larson said he's pleased that Robey will have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before he's eligible for parole under Kentucky law.
Vargas will have to serve only a year.
A formal sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 16.
Robey's lawyer, Ben Cabuay, said the guilty plea was in his client's best interest.
Vargas' lawyer, Londa J. Adkins, said she'd been negotiating with prosecutors throughout the trial. She said she has believed her client's story from the beginning.
"He's a good kid," she said.
During the trial, prosecutors said that on the evening of Dec. 21, 2007, some Lexington teens entered the home of Vargas, who prosecutors say oversaw the group's younger gang members, the "Pee-Wees."
During opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said Vargas "got the order" to take out Quiroz, a fellow Latin King whose commitment to the gang had flagged considerably in their eyes.
Quiroz was found shot, his body slumped over the wheel of a car parked on Trailwood Lane. He died later at University of Kentucky hospital.
The triggerman, Manny Erevia, then 15, pleaded guilty last month and agreed to a recommended 20-year sentence without probation.
Erevia was to be one of five gang members expected to testify during the trial. Prosecutors said the gang members would have testified about the gang's initiation, command structure and code of conduct.