Matthew D. Laurin (mug shot JCSO)

A Springfield man has admitted that he took part in the October 2008 murders of an elderly Carthage couple.

Twenty year-old Matthew D. Laurin pleaded guilty today to the brutal stabbing deaths of Robert, 70, and Ellen Sheldon, 71, on October 11,2008. Robert Sheldon was stabbed 26 times, his wife six when they returned to their home just west of Carthage after attending a church function. The family dog was also killed in the attack.
Robert and Ellen Sheldon (family photo)

It was a plea that will keep Laurin off of death row.

Detectives say robbery was the motive behind the Sheldon's murders. Authorities say that Darren Winans and Zachary S. Townsend had been to the Old Cabin Shop, a gun and archery store that the Sheldon's owned and operated on their property, in September of 2008 and that a gun was stolen from the shop during their visit.

A witness testified at Laurin and Winans preliminary hearing that in December of 2008, Winans told her and her daughter that he and Laurin went to Carthage to kill Robert and Ellen Sheldon and their dog because their drug dealer wanted guns in exchange for drugs. Teresa Adkins says that Winans told them, “him and Matt had gone to Joplin to kill two people and a dog for drug money . . . to rob the place.”

Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn says Winans allegedly convinced Laurin to accompany him "because the Sheldon's were easy targets."

Laurin and Winans, 22, of Jasper, were arrested in July of 2009 and charged with two counts of murder, two counts of armed criminal action and burglary. Both men pointed the finger at each other for the grisly murders of the elderly couple, however yesterday on the petition to change his plea Laurin changed his story.

His statement of facts reads: “Darren Winans and I wanted to buy some cocaine and marijuana. We needed money to do it so we planned to rob a gun shop that Darren knew about near Carthage, and steal some guns and sell them.“On Oct. 11, 2008, around 10 p.m., I drove Darren and myself to the property owned by Robert and Ellen Sheldon. Both Darren and I had bought masks and gloves to wear, and both of us brought knives in case we needed them.“The alarm system was on in the gun shop so we went to the house the Sheldons lived in. The door wasn’t locked so I just opened the door and went in. I asked Ellen Sheldon and Robert Sheldon for the keys to the gun shop, but neither would give them to me so I stabbed both of them until they died. Then Darren went upstairs and found a couple of guns and a safe and we took those and left.”

Bob Sheldon had been a reserve deputy with the Jasper County Sheriff's Office.

Laurin waived his right to a sentencing assessment report and was sentenced by Circuit Judge Gayle Crane to two life terms without the possibility of parole for the murder convictions, two 20-year terms for armed criminal action and 15 years for the burglary. Those sentences will run consecutive to each other (one after the other.)

The children of Bob and Ellen Sheldon approved the plea agreement.

Darrin Winans (mug shot JCSO)

The death penalty is still on the for Darren Winans as his case works it's way through the court system. There is no word on whether a plea deal is in the works in his case. As part of Laurin's plea deal with prosecutors, he will not have to testify against Winans.