August 14, 2018 10:35:58 AM
BRANDON -- A Mississippi man pleaded guilty Monday to a killing and a drive-by shooting that launched what authorities say was a series of violent crimes in three states separated by nearly 2,000 miles.
Alex Deaton acknowledged in Rankin County Circuit Court that he strangled girlfriend Heather Robinson to death in February 2017, stole her SUV, and then shot and wounded a jogger near Robinson's home. Rankin County Circuit Judge William Chapman sentenced him to life in prison.
Legal proceedings may not be over, though. Deaton could face trial later this year on an indictment accusing him of shooting Brenda Pinter to death the day after he killed Robinson as Pinter was cleaning a rural church near Philadelphia, Mississippi.
The 29-year-old Deaton also faces a multicount indictment in New Mexico's Sandoval County, accusing him of trying to kidnap two teenage hikers. Authorities say he shot and wounded one of them and stole a car.
Deaton already pleaded guilty in July 2017 to the final act in his criminal drama -- robbing, stealing a car from and shooting a convenience store clerk in Pratt, Kansas. Deaton was sentenced in October to nearly 13 years in prison in Kansas for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery there.
Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said he believes Monday's sentence will assure Deaton never goes free. That was the stated goal of Robinson's relatives.
"This was not a case, based on the facts of it, that we could pursue the death penalty," Guest told reporters after the sentencing.
Deaton on Monday told the judge he had been treated for bipolar disorder, but authorities say they're still unsure what prompted the violence. Jessica Greene, Robinson's sister, testified that her oldest child still asks why Deaton killed Robinson.
"He said he loved her. How could he do this to her?" Greene testified. "There are so many unanswered questions."
Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said he believes the 30-year-old Robinson was trying to break up with Deaton.
"I think it was an abusive relationship, she was trying to break it off with him and I think that, in my opinion, made him go off the deep end," Bailey told reporters.
Authorities declined to say why Deaton may have shot Pinter or whether they had any connection. Neshoba County District Attorney Steven Kilgore said Deaton may face trial in Philadelphia in November. But he said that since Deaton has already been sentenced to life, that may happen.
"There's not a clear roadmap as to where we're going at this point," Kilgore said.
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