A man accused of murdering his mother and another family member last year is going to prison for life.
Dale Lee Horton, charged last year with two first-degree murders and five other felonies, appeared in Judge Jeff Harris' courtroom in Fulton Thursday. He pleaded guilty to murdering his mother and brother-in-law by shooting them last year.
The change of plea means the state will not pursue the death penalty, court officials said.
"I'm sure Mr. Horton is relieved that we have disposed of the case," public defender Mary Joe Smith said after leaving the courtroom.
Horton will serve two concurrent terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was placed in the custody of the state Department of Corrections.
Charges dismissed against Horton include two felony counts of armed criminal action, first-degree burglary (felony), first-degree assault and first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle (felony).
No motive for the murders was discussed in court Thursday.
On April 27, 2016, Horton, then 35, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Ann Grayson, then 27, were charged with the murders of Sherry Horton (Horton's mother) and Joshua Griffith, his brother-in-law. These were the first homicides reported in Callaway County in two years, law enforcement officials said at the time.
As previously reported, the couple was arrested at the Welcome Inn in Columbia about 9:30 p.m. April 26, the night of the incident, and transported back to Callaway County. Law officers also found a 9mm handgun at the motel, which Horton later said was used to commit the murders.
An interview by Callaway sheriff's department officers was reported in the probable cause statement. In that interview Dale Horton admitted he and Grayson went to a residence shared by the victims in western Callaway County. Horton told the interviewers he first wounded his mother, then killed Griffith. He then returned to Sherry Horton and killed her.
Law officers said they received a report of a possible shooting at 2639 County Road 324 about 5:30 p.m. April 26. When deputies responded, they found Sherry Horton and Griffith dead.
A 2003 Toyota pickup owned by Sherry Horton and her husband, Dale D. Horton, was missing, then recovered a short distance away.
According to the probable cause statement, Dale Lee Horton said during the interview Grayson was inside the residence with him, and she verbally berated Sherry Horton before her death. He also admitted stealing jewelry and the truck.
Grayson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of assault in the first degree and first-degree burglary. According to Missouri Case.net, her jury trial is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 15 before Judge Kevin M. Crane.
Case.net also states Grayson is represented by a public defender, as well.