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Westall accepts plea agreement; not going to trial

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On Wednesday, January 8, 2014, Helen Marie Westall accepted a plea agreement from the prosecution.

She was meant to go to trial in January in connection with the March 2012 murder of her uncle, Robert V. Westall. Westall had been granted a chance of venue and was scheduled for trial in Benton at the Franklin County Courthouse. However, it wasn't too late for a plea agreement.

After accepting the prosecution's deal, a court hearing with Judge Robert Hopkins followed. Westall was charged with solicitation of murder and solicitation of murder for hire. She ended up pleading guilty to the second charge: solicitation of murder for hire.

This is a Class X felony, which carries a fine of up to $25,000 and 20 to 40 years in prison, plus three years of probation.

During the plea hearing, Hopkins questioned Westall regarding her decision. He asked if she was being threatened, if she was making the plea agreement of her own free will, if she had been coerced, if she understood completely what she was doing, and if she realized she was giving up her right to trial by jury. He also asked what, if any, prescription drugs were in her system and how long she had been on medication.

Lawrence County State's Attorney Christ Quick told the court that the state could produce evidence to convict Westall. He summarized some of this evidence.

In exchange for Westall pleading guilty, the prosecution agreed to a sentencing cap of 30 years and a sentencing hearing. The hearing has been scheduled for March 25, 2014, in the Lawrence County Courthouse. At that time, the judge will make the ultimate decision on her sentence length, but it will be no less than 20 years and no more than 30 years.

Another condition of the plea agreement is that no other charges regarding Robert Westall's death can be filed against Westall. The other charge, solicitation of murder, was dismissed.