5:30 PM
Ellen and Robert Sheldon

One of the men who killed an elderly couple from Carthage in October of 2008 has been spared the death penalty after pleading guilty to second-degree murder today.

Darren Joseph Winans, 23, of Jasper and Matthew Laurin of Springfield were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of Robert and Ellen Sheldon. The family dog was also killed in the attack.

Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankleson says the pair went to rob the couple and steal weapons from their business, The Old Cabin Shop, that sat adjacent to their home. 

Darren Joseph Winans (l.) and Matthew D. Laurin
 Laurin pleaded guilty to frst-degree murder, armed criminal action and burglary his part in the crime last July. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Shortly after that plea jailers found him dead...hanging from a bedsheet in his jail cell. 

Laurin's suicide left no witnesses or victims for prosecutors - Winans girlfriend and her mother, whom he allegedly confessed to, both died of drug overdoses. Teresa Adkins testified that at Winan's preliminary hearing that in December of 2008 Winans told she and her daughter Amanda 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.
Sources say Laurin's first time in Carthage was the night the Sheldon's were murdered

When Laurin changed his plea, he had to write a statement of facts for the prosecutor and the judge, it 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

Today Winans pleaded guilty to amended charges of two counts of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.  He also pleaded guilty to burglary.  The maximum sentence he could receive is life in prison, which is thirty years in the state of Missouri, on each of the murder and armed criminal action convictions.

The judge will have to decide if those will be served concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one after the other.)  We will find that decision out on May 4th when Judge Gayle Crane sentences Winans.