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story.lead_photo.caption Corey Williams Jr.

The 21-year-old getaway-car driver in the slaying of a North Little Rock man at a Little Rock detail shop accepted a 55-year prison sentence on Thursday after getting some straight talk from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims.

At his final court appearance before trial, Corey Williams Jr.'s lawyers told Sims that the defendant had declined the 55-year offer and preferred to take his chances with a jury on capital-murder and other charges, which carries an automatic life sentence

"You think you can beat these charges at trial?," Sims asked, questioning Williams about who, besides attorneys Lott Rolfe and Brett Qualls, had been advising him on trial strategy.

The judge also reminded Williams that he faces five other aggravated robbery charges in another court. A conviction in any one of those cases could add another life sentence, Sims said. Prosecutors had agreed to drop those charges as part of his plea deal.

"Do you really want to risk your liberty?" the judge said. "If you're found guilty on this, you're going to die in prison. If you take a term of years, you can live to get out. So what do you want to do?"

"I'll sign" the plea statement, Williams responded, pleading guilty to second-degree murder, reduced from capital murder, aggravated robbery and first-degree battery.

Williams' sentencing comes as authorities have charged a third person in the killing of Harvel Todd Sieber more than 18 months after the 47-year-old married father of one was shot to death in November 2016.

Prison inmate Taelon Babydoll Johnson, 23, is scheduled for arraignment on Monday. Court records show he was sentenced to two years in September for endangering the welfare of a minor while on probation for property crimes.

Deputy prosecutor Kelly Ward said Thursday that Johnson, Williams and 25-year-old Alundra Shelay Hampton, the shooter, conspired together to rob the Hines Detail Shop on East Capitol Avenue.

Hampton pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, reduced from capital murder, and first-degree battery in June with sentencing scheduled for next month. Police say Hampton entered the shop and asked to use the restroom.

As owner Mitchell Hines directed an employee to show Hampton where to go, she pulled out a gun and started shooting. Hines was struck in the leg but Sieber was shot and killed after he got his gun and tried to shoot her, police said. Hampton and Mitchell were arrested about four months later.

According to police reports, Hines, a minister, knew Williams and had befriended the younger man as part of his ministry by giving Williams a job at the detail shop, knowing Williams was awaiting trial on five armed robbery charges. Hines told police he eventually had to fire Williams for poor performance.

A few days before Williams' March arrest, Williams' girlfriend, Renada Smith, told police that Williams was upset with Hines and that he had talked about robbing Hines' shop to get his money.

Smith said she saw Williams on the day of the shooting and that he told her he had done something bad. Williams said they had tried to rob the shop but that the woman who had been with him had been dumb and just started shooting so they were not able to steal anything.

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Metro on 08/10/2018

Print Headline: Driver in LR slaying accepts 55-year term

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