Dallas Christian, 25, who was charged with capital murder, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of murder, according to District Attorney Stephanie Stephens. Stephens said Christian will have to serve at least half (20 years) of his sentence in prison before he is eligible for parole. Although jury selection in Christian's trial was scheduled to begin Monday - and his trial was scheduled to begin June 30 - Stephens said she spoke with Christian's lawyer, Clifton L. "Scrappy" Holmes of Tyler, over the weekend and was told that Christian wanted to plea instead. Stephens also said that Kelly's family had input during the negotiation process, and that she thinks they are "somewhat relieved" to have this part over. James Kelly's mother, Frances Bone, also read a victim impact statement on behalf of their family during court. Stephens said that Christian's role in Kelly's death included driving his girlfriend at the time, Shaina Sepulvado, and their friend Colton Weir, to Kelly's home where he was murdered by Weir. James Kelly, was Sepulvado's stepfather. Her mother, Marcia Kelly, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August 2006, for masterminding the murder-for-hire plot where she offered Weir - who was a minor at the time of the murder - $10,000, jet skis and two trucks for her husband's death, Stephens said during Sepulvado's trial. Sepulvado and Weir were also sentenced to life in prison without parole during their trials. After a night of "partying and drinking," Stephens said Christian drove Sepulvado, Weir and two other individuals to the Kelly house during the early morning hours. Sepulvado and Weir went inside the house where Weir shot James Kelly, who was sleeping in his bed, Stephens said. Gary Batchelor, a witness to the crime, testified during Sepulvado's trial that he was one of the people who rode in the vehicle with Sepulvado, Weir and Christian the night of the murder. He said they stopped the car at a driveway near the Kelly home in Cushing, when Sepulvado and Weir left the car and minutes later he heard a shot. After driving away, Weir threw a rifle into the Angelina River, while Christian and Sepulvado burned rubber gloves and a sweater on the river's bank. Batchelor is serving a sentence at a Texas Youth Commission facility for tampering with evidence in connection with the Kelly shooting. Another man, Billy Loftin Jr., was indicted for tampering with evidence, and his case is still pending, Stephens said. "He was in the car with them, but he had a very minimal role," she said. "He didn't know until after the fact what had happened." According to a previous Daily Sentinel article, Marcia Kelly and Sepulvado each asked two men to kill James Kelly in 2004. Family and friends of Weir said that in the weeks before the killing, Weir had bragged that Marcia would pay him to kill her husband. Christian was originally deemed incompetent to stand trial in June 2006, but after treatment at a state hospital, state specialists re-evaluated him and declared him competent. Christian had been in custody until recently, when he was released on a $600,000 bond by Holmes. As part of his parole, he was fitted with an ankle monitor and was under house arrest. Last week, the state claimed Christian had violated his parole by leaving his house, but a motion to revoke his parole was denied by Klein. After the hearing, Christian was fitted with an additional ankle monitor. As of press time Monday, calls made to Holmes were not immediately returned. Dallas Christian gets into a sheriff's department vehicle Monday at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse after he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the 2005 murder of Cushing resident James Kelly. Christian was scheduled to go to trial Monday on capital murder charges but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of murder. Photo courtesy of Kevin White

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