BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – A man charged in a shooting that left five people dead cut short his trial a day after it began, pleading guilty to murder Wednesday.
Artavius Underwood, 19, of Fairfield accepted a deal from prosecutors by pleading guilty to five counts of capital murder.
A judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, and Underwood could be eligible for release in less than 15 years.
Two more teens await trial on capital charges in the shootings.
Police in Birmingham found five men shot to death during an apparent robbery in a small frame home on Jan. 29, 2012. The victims included Demetrius Sanford, 19; Charles “C.J.” Render, 21; Jeffrey Davis Jr. and Jonathan Sanchez, both 23; and Ronnie Render, 42.
Underwood was arrested along with two other teens, Reginald Mims and Rashad Stoves, who are set for trial in the fall. The plea didn’t include an agreement by Underwood to testify in his co-defendants’ trials, as sometimes occurs.
Relatives of the victims expressed satisfaction with the guilty plea by Underwood, the first of the three to stand trial.
“He got life. I’m happy,” said Haniel Sanchez, older brother of Jonathan Sanchez.
Defense attorney Emory Anthony said his client had to consider the plea offer since it meant a possibility of parole.
“We’re just glad it’s over with,” said Anthony.
Prosecutors dropped a robbery charge and another murder count under the agreement.
Underwood’s trial began Tuesday with opening statements by attorneys and testimony from witnesses.
Two men who survived the shooting could not identify Underwood as being one of the three gunmen, and the judge ruled that jurors could not hear most of Underwood’s statements to police because detectives continued questioning the youth after he asked several times to speak with his mother.
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