CONWAY -- Hunter Drexler pleaded guilty Tuesday to two charges of first-degree murder in the 2015 slaying of a Conway couple.
Faulkner County Circuit Judge Troy Braswell accepted the 20-year-old's guilty plea on six felony charges that included two for first-degree murder, two for abuse of a corpse and two for aggravated robbery in the shooting deaths of Robert and Patricia Cogdell.
Drexler of Clinton was sentenced to 25 years in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
He had been scheduled to go on trial Sept. 17, and the Arkansas Court of Appeals rejected recent efforts to have his case moved to juvenile court.
Drexler was charged originally with capital murder and faced two additional theft-of-property charges, which were dropped as part of the plea deal. Because Drexler was younger than 18 at the time of the crime, he could not face the death penalty.
Drexler was 17 when he and three other teens were charged as adults in the deaths of the two 66-year-olds. The other co-defendants -- Justin Staton, 17, Anastasia Roberts, 20, and Connor Atchley, 19 -- all pleaded guilty and are serving time in prison.
"He was the last of them," said the Cogdells' daughter, Lindi Weaver, as she wiped tears from her eyes outside the courtroom. "But nothing is ever going to bring my mom and dad back."
On July 21, 2015, Staton, Drexler and Atchley planned to rob the Cogdells at gunpoint, hoping to steal enough money to run away from Arkansas, deputy prosecuting attorney Joan Shipley said as she read aloud the statement of facts. She said Drexler provided multiple weapons for the robbery, including a .22-caliber pistol and a .22-caliber rifle that were used to kill the couple.
Drexler, Staton and Atchley took more than $3,000 and various credit cards, some of which were taken from Robert Cogdell's pockets after he had been shot seven times, Shipley said.
Drexler and Staton -- whom the Cogdells had legal custody of and had raised as a grandson -- dumped the bodies behind a barbed-wire fence near the tree line on their property.
After a few stops, Drexler and Atchley picked up Roberts, Atchley's girlfriend, and fled the state, Shipley said. When they were caught in Graham, Texas, officers found the Cogdells' credit cards in Drexler's possession, Shipley said.
Staton was arrested earlier at his biological mother's home.
Family members filed out of the courtroom quickly Tuesday afternoon. Some left immediately, while others waited around for a few moments in the hallway.
Kimberly Ison, Drexler's mother, stood close to her family for a few moments after the hearing, hugging them and wiping her eyes before leaving the courthouse.
Drexler rarely glanced toward his mother during the hearing, but her eyes followed him to the stand and she watched as her son pleaded guilty and stumbled in his shackles back to his seat.
His hair was thick, long and tightly curled.
His sideburns had grown almost to his jawline, and the blue and white jumpsuit hung off his thin frame as he spoke to Braswell and the attorneys.
Three years after her parents' death, the tears still come quickly for Weaver, who said she moved away from Conway for a time because she "just couldn't be here anymore."
Weaver said she had grown closer than ever to her mother in the months before her parents' deaths. Growing up, Weaver said her mother never liked dogs, whereas Weaver keeps many.
"She had just gotten to where she would come out and help me with my dogs," Weaver said. "It was the best time I had with my mom."
The hearing took place just two days after what would have been Robert Cogdell's birthday.
Weaver said she and her father used to play a game each year, where one would try to call the other earlier on their respective birthdays.
"I miss picking up the phone to talk to them," she said. "I would call them for everything."
Weaver has moved back to Conway, and after years of trying to cope with the loss of her parents alone she is seeing a counselor who is helping her work through it all.
"Love your mother," Weaver said as she left the courthouse. "You may think you're mad at her, but you aren't. You never really are."
Metro on 07/11/2018
Print Headline: Guilty plea 4th in '15 slayings; Conway couple’s killer, now 20, to spend 25 years in prison