BY KEN LITTLE
The third and final defendant in a 2009 home-invasion case that involved murder entered a guilty plea Tuesday to facilitation of first-degree murder.
Chad Eric Rader, 37, formerly of Haney Park, entered the plea in Greene County Criminal Court.
He was sentenced by Judge John F. Dugger Jr. to 34 years in prison, at 35 percent release eligibility.
Rader acted as the driver early on Oct. 13, 2009, for Shawn Anthony Jones and Jessica Marie Myers.
In 2012, Greene County juries convicted both Jones and Myers of first-degree murder and attempted murder. They are serving effective life sentences in prison.
There remains a question whether Jones or Myers pulled the trigger in the fatal shooting of Jimmy Lee Cutshall, 54, and shot his wife Rhonda Cutshall in the head, causing permanent injuries.
The shootings occurred after the pair burst into the Cutshall mobile home looking for money and drugs.
Prosecutors acknowledge that Rader did not go into the trailer or pull the trigger.
But his role as wheelman in the criminal enterprise was enough for him to be charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for his actions that night.
Rader entered guilty pleas to counts of facilitation to commit murder by three theories of action -- theft, robbery and aggravated burglary. He also pleaded guilty to one count of facilitation to commit attempted first-degree murder.
The sentences on the crimes will all run concurrently rather than consecutively.
Rader "furnished substantial assistance" to Jones and Myers in committing the crime, and shared responsibility with them in the fatal shooting of Cutshall and wounding of his wife, said Assistant Attorney General Cecil Mills Jr., who prosecuted the case with Assistant Attorney General Ritchie Collins.
Rader had been scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 22.
He made no statement, but answered a number of questions by Judge Dugger, who sought to be sure that Rader understood the plea agreement.
"I know this is an important case for you, an important decision," Dugger said. "You're asking me to agree to it, and I just have to make sure you understand that your sentence [is] 34 years at 35 percent release eligibility."
Rader said he understood.
'A SAD SITUATION'
"He never meant to hurt anybody. Things just spun out of control. It's just a sad situation," Rader's lawyer, William H. Bell, said after his client was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
The only member of the victims' families in the courtroom was Pam Davis, Jimmy Lee Cutshall's sister-in-law. Davis signed off on the plea agreement on behalf of the families.
"I'd like to see him pull the whole 34," Davis said of Rader. "He knew what was going on."
Rader was paid about $40 by Jones and Myers for driving them to a spot near the Cutshall trailer, and picking them up after the shootings and robbery, Asst. Attorney General Mills said.
Mills said in a prepared statement after sentencing that he hopes the Cutshall family and their friends feel some sense of closure.
"The two principals that hatched the plan and went into the home with masks and a gun each took their cases to trial and were found guilty by jurors and received life sentences," Mills said.
"Today, the third and final co-defendant, Chad Rader, has pleaded guilty and received a sentence of 34 years."
Mills said that, despite the fact that Rader never went into the Cutshall mobile home or shot anyone, he "did not immediately report what he knew to law enforcement, and a SWAT team had to apprehend him."
Mills mentioned that the Cutshalls may have been involved in the sale of prescription pills.
"Proof was presented in previous trials that our victims may have been small-time drug dealers.
"The message here is that all citizens living in this district must and should feel safe from unwarranted intruders entering your home seeking to steal and commit injury, no matter what their station in life," Mills said.
'FACTS OF THE CASE'
Mills thanked investigators and others involved in the case, law enforcement officers who took the defendants into custody, and members of the District Attorney General's office who assisted with preparation of the case, including District Attorney General Berkeley Bell.
Added Collins: "I'm sure there's going to be questions why [Rader] was able to plead to the [lesser offenses], but it was strictly the facts of the case."
The other defendants said in statements to law enforcement that Rader drove them to a spot near the Cutshalls' trailer in Jones' Jeep, then waited outside while Jones and Myers went inside
Rader picked up the pair after they left the mobile home.
At Jones' direction, Rader also hid the rifle used in the shooting high in a tree near his mobile home. The gun was found the day after the shootings.