Three more defendants plead guilty in 2013 Tyler Motel murder

Three more defendants plead guilty in 2013 Tyler Motel murder

Three defendants in a 2013 murder pleaded guilty and avoided a trial Friday.

Michael Browning, Lawrence Murphy, Jr., Darian Pilkinton and Broderick Smith are all accused of killing 26-year-old Wesley Lester at Tyler's American Inn Motel during the early morning hours of Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Surveillance video revealed four men approaching the motel that morning. Two of them went inside room 218 to kill Lester while the other two acted as lookouts.

Browning, Lawrence, Murphy and Smith were later identified by Tyler police as the men from the video.

Browning pleaded guilty last week, receiving 30 years in prison.

Murphy's case was called first Friday. Murphy told Judge Kerry Russell he intended to plead guilty to a charge of first degree murder, reduced from capital murder.

Murphy pleaded guilty to Lester's murder. He also admitted in open court to a past conviction of the juvenile equivalent of aggravated assault.

The prosecution recommended 20 years in prison as Murphy's punishment. Judge Russell accepted the recommendation.

Pilkinton's case was called next. Pilkinton told the judge he intended to enter a guilty plea, also on a reduced charge of first degree murder.

Pilkinton formally pleaded guilty to Lester's murder.

The prosecution recommended 40 years in prison for Pilkinton. Judge Russell accepted the recommendation.

Smith's case was the last to be called. Court documents indicated his plea deal was accepted at the last minute, with information on a lesser murder charge filed late Thursday.

Smith cried loudly as plea documents were prepared. He continued crying when asked whether he intended to plead guilty. Initially unable to answer, he later said he intended to plead guilty.

Judge Russell wondered aloud as to whether Smith's tears were "crocodile tears." Russell said he would have no problem going forward with a capital murder trial.

Faced with that prospect, Smith affirmed that he wanted to proceed with the plea agreement.

He pleaded guilty to Lester's murder and admitted he was previously found guilty of felony drug possession.

Prosecutors recommended 15 years in prison for the sentence. Judge Russell agreed with the recommendation and sentenced Smith accordingly.


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