Driver pleads in Hutchinson woman’s homicide

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A man who drove two other people to a Hutchinson home where a woman was killed in a case of mistaken identity has pleaded no contest.

A judge found Billy Joe Craig Jr. of Hutchinson guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on Tuesday after Craig agreed to the plea deal in connection with the June 14, 2011, death of Jennifer Heckel.

Prosecutors contend the men meant to rob another woman, Kayla Rodriguez, of drugs and money but drove to the wrong home and shot Heckel while her 5-year-old son was in the house. The boy was not injured.

Through the plea, Craig was convicted of conspiring to kill Rodriguez, The Hutchinson News reported ( ). The state agreed to dismiss other charges in the murder case and in unrelated drug and theft cases. Prosecutors also agreed not to call Craig as a witness in other cases or pursue other investigations against him. Sentencing is set for Jan. 30.

Prosecutors contend the 27-year-old Heckel was shot three times as her son was in another room watching television. The boy heard the shots, found his mother on the floor and ran to a neighbor for help.

A second suspect, Charles Logsdon, was convicted of murder in November 2012. No charges have been filed against a third suspect, who has not been publicly identified.

Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said the investigation is continuing.

“We have strong suspicion,” he said. “We want to take every precaution to get justice. On the other person, we’re going to remain tight-lipped because we do not want to jeopardize prosecution.”



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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