A Johnson County man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for hindering apprehension.
Phillip Andrew Raible, 30, entered a negotiated plea of no contest on Tuesday, according to Johnson County Circuit Court records. He was given credit for 414 days in jail.
Raible and three other men were charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Vernice "Duwayne" Ledbetter, 29, who disappeared after a New Year's Eve bonfire.
Ledbetter was reported missing on New Year's Day 2018. His badly burned body was found Jan. 22 in a remote area north of Hagarville.
The murder charge against Raible was dropped, according to a sentencing order filed Tuesday in circuit court.
Isaac Taylor Vaughn, 21, and Brian Anthony White, 22, have already entered guilty pleas in the case, said Bruce Wilson, the deputy prosecutor in the case. He said both men pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and waived their right to a jury trial.
Zachary Aaron Geels, 26, is the lone defendant now. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled for June 24.
An evaluation at the Arkansas State Hospital determined Geels didn't have a mental disease or defect at the time of the incident, but suffered from methamphetamine use disorder.
In a Dec. 31, 2017, telephone conversation, Ledbetter told his wife he was with White in a pickup "going up on the mountain to get more firewood," according to the affidavit for Geels' arrest.
But something changed at a bonfire shortly afterward.
Vaughn told police Geels "put Ledbetter on the ground," according to the affidavit.
"They took his phone and started going through it and found 'cop stuff,'" according to the court document.
Vaughn told police Raible and Geels tied Ledbetter's hands together with wire. They forced Ledbetter into the pickup and took him to another location, according to the affidavit.
"Vaughn said Ledbetter was 'pistol whipped' and that White walked up to him and shot Ledbetter five times," according to the affidavit.
White told police Vaughn shot Ledbetter, according to the affidavit.
Wilson said all four men were liable accomplices in the homicide even if only one of them pulled the trigger.
NW News on 03/15/2019
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