Unexpected guilty pleas from three defendants in a brutal capital murder case put an end to nearly two years of legal back-and-forth between prosecutors and defense attorneys.
However, the pleas did not answer the question of who fired the shot that killed Darryl Delano Carter, 25. Carter was tied up and shot at a townhome in Lexington's Woodhill neighborhood on Nov. 30, 2010.
Daniel Gadson, 30; Elzandrae Warren, 29; and Montrevell Lewis, 18, all pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday, less than a week before their trial was scheduled to start. Each of the men admitted at a hearing in Fayette Circuit Court that he was inside the townhome when Carter was killed, but none admitted to pulling the trigger.
Gadson and Warren both told Judge Kimberly Bunnell that Lewis killed Carter, but Lewis said it was Warren.
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Carter was killed while visiting a friend, Ira Robinson, at Robinson's townhome on Hedgewood Court. Police have said Gadson, Warren and Lewis went to the home under the guise of buying drugs, but when Robinson opened the door the trio burst in, tied up Carter and Robinson and robbed them of cash and other items.
Somebody shot Carter in the neck, killing him. Gadson was accused of cutting Robinson's throat and stabbing him in the head and back, police have said.
Robinson managed to free himself, and he was shot in the leg as he fled out the back door to a neighbor's house. He survived the attack, and he was supposed to testify at trial as the prosecution's primary witness, attorneys said.
On the murder charges, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson recommended 25 years in prison for Gadson, 30 years for Warren and 20 years for Lewis.
Gadson also pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree assault, and Warren pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence, for which Larson recommended an additional 10 years and five years, respectively.
The men appeared calm as they answered Bunnell's questions. Gadson and Warren both paused for several seconds before answering "Yes, ma'am" when Bunnell asked whether they were guilty of murder.
When Bunnell asked Gadson what he did to be guilty of assault, he replied, "I stabbed Ira Robinson."
Warren told the judge he was guilty of tampering with physical evidence because he got rid of his clothes after the attack.
Family members and most attorneys said after the hearing they did not want to comment on the case until the men were sentenced.
Jennifer Wittmeyer, an attorney for Gadson, said Gadson "thought long and hard about whether or not to accept this deal."
"Ultimately, we believe this to be a fair resolution to the case," she said.
Because robbery was the suspected motive, Gadson and Warren could have been eligible for the death penalty if the case had gone to trial. (Lewis was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a minor when the slaying occurred.)
However, on Friday defense attorneys were given new evidence in the case which had been withheld by prosecutors by mistake. After hearings regarding the evidence Friday and Monday, it was unclear whether the death penalty was still an option or whether the trial would be postponed.
Discussions continued in closed sessions Tuesday afternoon. About 3:45 p.m., the court was notified that Gadson, Warren and Lewis intended to plead guilty.
Bunnell accepted their pleas and scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 30.