For a case that has had more turns than the mountain it began on, the homicide case of Jonathan Pierce took another twist Monday.
Less than 24 hours before Travis Gaylor’s first-degree murder trial in Pierce’s death was to begin, it was called off. Gaylor had chose not take his chances with a jury opting instead for a plea.
During the afternoon session of criminal court he plead guilty to second-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery
“Given the level of evidence the state was prepared to present, an agreement to resolve Travis’s case is the best way to ensure Travis has the ability to have a life when he gets this behind him,” said Steve Sams, Gaylor’s court appointed attorney. “It is important for Travis to get this behind him and move on with his life.”
As Pierce’s widow, Linda, along with his parents, looked on, Gaylor shuffled across the courtroom to face Judge Shayne Sexton.
With his hands chained at his waist, Gaylor acknowledged his culpability in Pierce’s death.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty,” Sexton asked Gaylor.
“Yes,” said Gaylor in a quiet tone.
Despite entering the plea, Gaylor’s case is far from over. His sentencing was not handed down Monday. Instead, it was postponed until the final defendant in the case, Sammy Miracle, stands trial in July.
Sams explained away the delay saying Gaylor’s case is being managed similar to a federal case. Sentencing dates are often spread around the other defendants’ court appearances, he said.
Even though Sams had filed numerous motions in the case, he said plea negotiations had been ongoing. Throughout the talks, Gaylor was being advised not only by Sams but also by his own sister, Miranda Kirby. Late last summer, she was convicted for her part in Pierce’s death and sentenced to life behind bars.
“She was writing him nonstop, encouraging him to resolve the case,” Sams said Tuesday afternoon. With many of his concerns about facing a jury rooted in Kirby’s outcome, Sams said Gaylor eventually decided to take prosecutor’s offer in the case.
“We were fully prepared to go to trial,” Sams added.
Sams declined to speculate on the length of Gaylor’s sentence but did say he expects Miracle to proceed to trial.
“Sammy Miracle, as far as we know, hasn’t given any statements (to law enforcement,)” said Sams. Kirby and Gaylor gave repeated statements to authorities during the course of the investigation.