Man pleads guilty in killing, will avoid death penalty | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Man pleads guilty in killing, will avoid death penalty

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Catholic Diocese Prison Ministry shows Donald Fell, sentenced to death for killing Terry King, of North Clarendon, Vt., who was abducted in 2000 when she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket. Fell, whose conviction in 2005 was later dismissed due to juror misconduct, is expected to plead guilty Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, in exchange for life in prison without parole. (Catholic Diocese Prison Ministry via AP, File)
September 28, 2018 - 11:01 AM

RUTLAND, Vt. - Nearly two decades after he was charged in the abduction and killing of a supermarket worker, a Vermont man pleaded guilty Friday in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

Donald Fell, 38, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The plea deal ended an 18-year quest by federal prosecutors to have Fell executed.

With no emotion, he pleaded guilty to the four charges in the 2000 kidnapping and killing of Terry King, whose relatives sat in the packed courtroom and had wanted Fell put to death. Fell declined to comment during his sentencing.

U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan said the U.S. attorney general's office in August directed prosecutors not to seek the death penalty. She said while there never would be a good ending to the case, a dangerous man will never be free to commit senseless violence.

"This is an incredibly solemn day," she said. "This is not a good ending. And there was never going to be good ending to this case because Terry King died in a brutal way, a terrifying way, a senseless way and her family is suffering unspeakable grief and they have for 18 years and they will continue to suffer unspeakable grief."

Prosecutors say that on Nov. 27, 2000, Fell, now 38, and friend Robert Lee killed Fell's mother and her friend in a Rutland apartment. Fell and Lee then abducted Terry King as she arrived for work at a Rutland supermarket because they wanted her car to escape Vermont. King was beaten to death later that day by the side of the road in New York state.

Lee hanged himself in prison in 2001.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford said the crime was one of most serious in Vermont in decades. The kidnapping and killing of King "was an act of great cruelty and brutality," he said. A life sentence without the possibility of release "provides just punishment even for crimes as brutal and unjustifiable as these," he said.

Fell was previously convicted in 2005 and sentenced to death under federal law, but the conviction and sentence were thrown out because of juror misconduct.

Fell's agreement to a plea deal came as he faced a retrial in the death penalty case.

Fell has repeatedly offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but up until now prosecutors have rejected the offer, insisting he face the death penalty.

The punishment did not satisfy King's family, who wanted Fell put to death and called the justice system broken.

"These 18 years have been a never-ending nightmare for my family," said sister Barbara Tuttle. "This plea deal is absolutely not what we wanted for an outcome. ... The only thing we can hope for now is that this subhuman or whatever you want to call him will end up in some deep dark hole and that every day and night of his life is the worst that it can be."

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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