Final suspect pleads guilty in Brittany Willis murder case
Posted June 2, 2009 11:27 a.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2009 11:56 a.m. EDT
Wilson, N.C. — A third man charged nearly five years ago in connection with the rape and murder of a Wilson teenager on Monday received a 45-day suspended sentence in the case.
Julian Tyson Deans, who was originally charged as an accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his or her innocence, and admits it is in his or her best interest to take the plea deal because there is sufficient evidence that could find him or her guilty.
Deans also received a prayer for judgment continued, meaning if he is ever charged with or convicted of another crime, the state could ask the court to impose an additional sentence in the Willis case.
Brittany Willis, 17 when she died, was kidnapped from a Wilson shopping center on June 28, 2004, and driven in her SUV to a field where she was raped and shot once in the back and once in the head.
Two men, Kenneth Meeks and James Johnson, were initially charged with murder, rape and kidnapping. Prosecutors said Dean was present when Meeks hid the gun used in the slaying.
Meeks plead guilty in April 2006 and is serving a life sentence in prison.
Johnson, who entered an Alford plea in February to a lesser charge of failing to notify authorities of a felony, was jailed under a $1 million bond on the initial charges for more than three years.
The handling of his case by the state and Wilson police detectives attracted the attention of civil rights groups that claimed prosecutorial misconduct and that race was a factor in the case – Johnson is black; Willis was white.
Former Wilson County District Attorney Howard Boney said last month that his office handled the case appropriately
Dean's sentence Monday closes the Willis case.
Willis, a senior at Hunt High School, played varsity volleyball and soccer player. She was planning to attend Peace College in Raleigh.