The man who killed Kansas City, Kansas, Police Detective Brad Lancaster in May 2016 pleaded guilty Tuesday.
In addition to capital murder, Curtis Ayers pleaded guilty to nine other counts in a crime spree that began when he shot 39-year-old Lancaster outside the Hollywood Casino May 9.
Ayers still faces charges in Leavenworth County, Kansas, and Jackson County, Missouri, where he was apprehended after a long chase.
“The defendant will be sentenced on March 14,” Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said at a news conference. “At that time he’ll receive – for sure – a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.”
Gorman, who is leaving office this month after losing his re-election bid in November, says he was glad to see this one through to the end.
But a plea deal in another case involving a slain KCK police officer fell through at the last minute.
Jamaal Lewis is accused of shooting Captain Robert David Melton to death on July 19, 2016.
“We’ve been working on this since the middle of December,” says Gorman. “When the defense first approached us and said their clients were interested in this, I met personally with the families of each Captain Melton and Detective Lancaster, separately.”
Gorman says he made sure both families understood that even though the death penalty is an option in capital cases, Kansas hasn’t executed a prisoner in more than 50 years.
“And both families said, you know, if we can resolve this and put this to bed with a sentence where he doesn’t ever get out of prison, let’s do that,” Gorman says.
The courtroom was packed with uniformed officers expecting to hear two guilty pleas. When it became apparent Lewis had changed his mind, several people left in tears.
One of them was Melton’s sister-in-law, Lynn Melton.
She says she was disappointed but not surprised that the deal fell through.
“We’ll be here every single hearing,” she said.
A preliminary hearing is set for March.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.