Three years after killing Kevin Barrett with his own SKS rifle, Aaron Walker pleaded guilty today.
Before Circuit Court Judge David Bragg, Walker, 25, of Bradyville Pike, entered a guilty plea to first-degree felony murder in the death of Barrett, 45, after gunning him down in July 2011 as he tried to escape a robbery at his Burks Hollow Road in southern Rutherford County.
The defendant, who also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping, will serve life in prison with the possibility of parole, according to the plea agreement.
Charges of premeditated murder, burglary and one count of aggravated robbery were dropped against Walker, Newman said.
“It’s been a long time,” Barrett’s mother, Barbara Thompson, said as she and other family members left the courtroom.
“Seems like forever. We miss him every day.”
Regina Flowers, Barrett’s girlfriend, who was bound and beaten during the incident, said, “I’m just never going to forget it.”
Assistant District Attorney J. Paul Newman told the court that Walker and co-defendant John Lamendola burglarized Barrett’s home in June and twice in July that year, one time stealing his rifle.
They returned July 25 and after watching Barrett leave the residence, went inside and beat and tied up Flowers. They held the rifle on her for an hour while demanding bank information and scouring the house for valuables, according to Newman.
Just moments after he finished unloading hay that day, Barrett entered his home and found the two men holding the gun on his girlfriend. When Barrett tried to run, Walker shot him once inside the home, then chased him outside and shot him in the shoulder. Barrett went down, and when he struggled back to his feet, Walker shot him again, this time in the head, killing him in the driveway, according to Newman.
Walker and Lamendola, 23, of Old Lascassas Highway, fled the scene in vehicles belonging to Barrett and Flowers and drove to Murfreesboro. Rutherford County Sheriff’s deputies chased the suspects after spotting them near University Gables Apartments on South Rutherford Boulevard.
One of the suspects was arrested immediately and the other was apprehended not long afterward. During interviews, they both admitted their guilt in the crimes, Newman said.
Lamendola, who is being held on similar charges in Rutherford County jail on $1.6 million bond, is expected to be in court in two weeks when the prosecution will make a plea offer, Newman said.
“He had turned state’s evidence,” Newman said, noting Lamendola did not pull the trigger in the murder. “He was pretty easy.”
The assistant district attorney commended the efforts of Brittany Nicholson, a Belmont University Law School student, for putting in hundreds of hours on the case as an intern.