By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - A 15-year-old Arkansas boy charged with capital murder pleaded guilty on Tuesday to killing his guardians and was sentenced by a state court to 35 years in prison.
Under state law, Justin Staton, 15, will be remanded to a youth facility until his 16th birthday, and then transferred to a state prison.
Staton had been charged as an adult for the 2015 fatal shooting of Robert and Patricia Cogdell, both 66, at the couple's home in Conway, northwest of Little Rock.
The couple had been Staton's legal guardians since 2010. Authorities believe after they were shot, their bodies were dragged to a nearby wooded area and their home robbed.
Three other teenagers including one female also face murder charges in the case. Staton and two of the others accused allegedly hatched the plot while serving sentences in a juvenile detention center.
Prosecutors said Staton's plea agreement called for him to provide evidence from his smartphone that could be used to prosecute at least one of his co-defendants. As a part of the plea deal, he had the charges against him reduced to first-degree murder.
Judge Troy Braswell told Staton about his role in killing his guardians: "I hope every day for the rest of your life, you think about them," the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported from the courtroom.
"Because they loved you and took care of you ... and the thanks you gave them was murder," it reported the judge as saying.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz, editing by G Crosse)