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Kenneth Stearns sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder of Walter Elder

TYLER (KYTX)-A Smith County man is pleading guilty to shooting and killing his sixty five year old roommate. Kenneth Ray Stearns will spend the next forty years in prison.
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TYLER (KYTX)-A Smith County man is pleading guilty to shooting and killing his sixty five year old roommate. Kenneth Ray Stearns will spend the next forty years in prison. Thursday in court, Walter Elder's family got some closure watching Stearns get sentenced.

This was the scene on October 7th of last year on Shady Creek drive in Smith County. Neighbors saw Walter Elder crash his car into a tree and Kenneth Stearns walk up to the car and shoot elder.

"The Smith County Sheriff's Department did an excellent job with this investigation. It was handled very professionally and it was brought to our office and we were able to reach an appropriate disposition that all parties were pleased with and that justice required in this case," Prosecutor Lucas Machicek said.

Thursday, Stearns plead guilty to murder and was sentenced to forty years in prison. This was an important case for the Smith County District Attorney's Office.

"It's important that everyone in the community knows that we take crimes like this very seriously, that law enforcement is going to take these crimes seriously and the DA's office is going to take them seriously, that victim's families will be heard on these matters and sentences will be rendered that are appropriate for the circumstance," Machicek said.

This isn't Stearns' first offense. He's previously been charged with DWI, criminal trespass and terroristic threat. Thursday Elder's family was in the courtroom, but chose not to address the killer.

"I really do believe we have an appropriate sentence in this case. The victim's family was there in the courtroom today and this is something we all wanted and all thought was appropriate," Machicek said.

Stearns will be eligible to go before a parole board in twenty years. The board would look at his prior convictions and behavior, among other things. However, because of Stearns age and medical conditions, prosecutors do believe this will be a life sentence.