NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - In the wake of a decision by the Texas Court of Appeals in December 2014, the state agreed to a new sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for the Nacogdoches woman involved in a murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the death of her stepfather in 2005.
Shaina Sepulvado, 25, appeared in Judge Edwin Klein's 420th Judicial District Court Wednesday. She was only given two options - life with the possibility of parole and life without the possibility of parole.
The new sentence did not find the initial finding of guilt, and Klein accepted the plea.
"Back several years ago Shaina was convicted of capital murder and the only thing because she was a juvenile at the time it was committed, the only thing the jury could do was give her life without the possibility of parole which means she would die in prison if she was 100," said John Heath, Sepulvado's defense attorney.
Heath said the outcome was the best-case scenario for Sepulvado.
"I can't speak to her feelings about it, but obviously anybody who knew that every day that you woke up you knew you were going to die in prison for sure - that's a different way toward conducting your life than knowing that you do have the possibility of parole," Heath said."So I'm hopeful that anyone in that situation can see some hope for their existence beyond concrete walls. Maybe that'll change the way they conduct their lives."
Nacogdoches County District Attorney Nicole Lestracca said the US Supreme Court recently decided that it was unconstitutional for people who juveniles at the time when they committed the offenses to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole without having a hearing first.
Lastracca said her office spoke extensively to the victim's mother about the case.
She felt like she needed closure," Lestracca said. "She said she's been going through this for so many years and always wondering if there was going to be another appeal. She just didn't feel like she could go through that any more, and she didn't feel like she could go through another contested hearing and have to relive what happened to her son all over again."
Last December, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the sentences for Sepulvado and Colton Weir, 25, were unconstitutional and ordered the Nacogdoches County court to re-assess the sentences.
Heath said it was a murder-for-hire plot.
“Marcia Kelly, Shaina's mother, basically conned Shaina into gathering up a group to murder James Kelly,” Heath said.
He said Sepulvado recruited Weir and her boyfriend Dallas Christian.
“Colton was the shooter, and Christian drove the get away car,” Heath said.
The court alleged the juveniles' sentences of life without parole violated the Eighth Amendment under Miller v. Alabama, as they were juveniles at the time of the crime. The Miller case was not brought before the Supreme Court until after Weir and Sepulvado were sentenced. At the time, life without parole was the only punishment which could be given to juveniles convicted of capital murder.
The 420th Court must assess their sentences at life with the possibility of parole or life without parole after consideration of their conduct, circumstances and character.
“However, the jury convictions of capital murder still stands,” Heath said.
Weir and Sepulvado were two of four people convicted of capital murder. Previous reports state Weir shot Kelly while he was sleeping. He was to be paid $10,000 and a pickup.
While Sepulvado's mother, Marcia Kelly, maintained her innocence, it was discovered she had a $100,000 insurance policy on him.
Former Nacogdoches County District Attorney Stephanie Stephens said Sepulvado's motive was not greed.
“Her mother allowed her to do whatever she wanted while her step-father was the disciplinarian,” said Stephens. “Sepulvado's motive was to get rid of him.”
Kelly is also serving a sentence of life without parole. A fourth person, Dallas Christian, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree murder and is serving a 40-year prison sentence.