LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Donna McCollum - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Three people suspected in the June 2009 kidnapping have pleaded guilty in plea deals Friday morning.
Stephanie Powell, 37, of Lufkin, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint and agreed to a three-year prison sentence. She also pleaded guilty to credit card abuse in an unrelated case and agreed to a 14-month sentence in state jail.
Ashely McLemore, 25, of Broaddus, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of kidnapping and agreed to a seven-year prison sentence. She receives 325 days credit for time served in the Angelina County Jail.
Gary Dale Allen, 31, of Vidor, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint and agreed to a five-year prison sentence. He receives 325 days credit for time served.
McLemore, Allen and four others are suspected of kidnapping and beating the girlfriend of who authorities say is a captain in the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious prison gang.
Allen spoke with others prior to going before the judge. He appeared relaxed, indicating a man with his mind made up. Rather than go on trial for kidnapping, he accepted the state's offer.
"Mr. Allen entered a plea to a lesser charge of illegal restraint for which the plea bargain agreement was for 5 years , subject to his jail credit," explained Allen's defense attorney, John Tunnell. "And we're satisfied with the plea agreement."
For McLemore, the decision to enter into a plea was much more difficult. Judge Barry Bryan described it as, "an emotional bind."
McLemore, in between tears and slight smiles, counseled with her attorney and parents. The idea of pleading guilty to kidnapping charges in exchange for a longer prison sentence than Allen just didn't seem fair to her.
Mclemore's mother felt the same way.
"She just made a wrong decision in her life," Rebecca Trinkle said. "There are people who make wrong decisions in their lives. And she's paying for it."
The gamble was to go for a jury trial that could lead to a felony conviction and a prison term up to ten years. McLemore allegedly held the flashlight while the victim was beaten. Or she could admit guilt for a seven-year prison term with a 300-day jail credit. That was McLemore's ultimate decision.
"She just got in with the wrong folks at the wrong time," Edward McFarland, McLemore's defense attorney, said. "She's no more a criminal than you or I or any other person was at the age."
In the end, McLemore kissed her father in a tearful goodbye for both.
The last to appear was Powell, the driver of the vehicle where the victim was stuffed in a trunk. She got the lightest sentence, three years in prison for unlawful restraint and a 14-month state jail sentence for credit card abuse. She receives 325 days jail credit.
"I'm glad it's over and I take responsibility for what I did, but the whole thing has been ridiculous," said Powell as she was being escorted back to the Angelina County Jail. She and the other defendants will wait there before being transported to state prisons.
The pleas end more than a year of investigation and prosecution proceedings into a kidnapping that changed lives forever.
Christopher Guffey and Stephen Dewayne Wallace, both of Lufkin, were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the kidnapping.
Rachel Tutt pleaded guilty in April to kidnapping and agreed to a 10-year prison sentence.