Danville man pleads guilty to murder; avoids death penalty

DANVILLE — A Danville man was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to two counts of murder in the 2012 shooting deaths of two men.

By taking a plea deal, Thomas Wayne Hager Jr., 39, avoided the possibility of facing the death penalty at trial, defense attorney Ernie Lewis said.

Hager thought a plea "was more reasonable than to go before a death-qualified jury," Lewis said. The evidence against Hager was "overwhelming," Lewis said.

As in his previous court appearances, Hager came to court wearing a bullet-resistant vest over a striped jail jumpsuit.

Hager was charged in the deaths of Ted Sparks, 54, of Danville, and Mark Snyder, 21, of Waynesburg, on May 21, 2012. Philip White, 37, of Lancaster was wounded in the shooting, and Hager pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault. Danville police said at the time that the shooting was drug-related.

Hager also pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with evidence for allegedly trying to dispose of the weapon used in the killings.

The terms of the plea were that Hager would receive life without parole on the two murder counts, 20 years on the assault, and five years on the tampering count. The sentences would run concurrently.

Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler imposed the sentence Thursday after Hager waived his right to final sentencing at a later date.

Hager also was a suspect — but was never charged — in the homicide of an ex-roommate in neighboring Lincoln County.

The remains of Clint Disken, 31, of Harrodsburg were found in May 2012 on property near Hustonville where Hager and Disken once lived. Disken was last seen alive in Harrodsburg in early March 2012. That same month, Hager had moved out of the mobile home they shared.