|Phillip Lee Friend (mug shot TCSO)|
One of five people facing murder charges connected to the 2011 homicides of Becky and Rusty Porter has cut a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and felonious restraint.
Phillip Friend was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder, felonious restraint and armed criminal action last October.
Becky and Rusty Porter went missing from their home near Willard in April of 2011 and their skeletal remains were found three months later in rural Taney County. Becky Porter lived in Stone County for the majority of her life before her marriage to Porter.
|Rusty and Becky Porter|
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped two counts of armed criminal action against Friend. Taney County Circuit Court Judge Mark Orr accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Friend to seven years on each of the felonious restraint convictions. Those sentences will run concurrently (at the same time.)
Phillip Friend's father, Tony Lee Friend, his cousin Dusty Hicks and Tony Friend's brother-in-law (and Rusty Porter's uncle) Robert Lee Campbell, who lived next door to the murdered couple, still face murder charges connected to the couples deaths. Tony Friend's wife, Windy, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
|Robert Campbell, Tony Friend, Windy Friend and Dusty Hicks|
Less than a month before the Porter's went missing, Campbell and Rusty Porter had filed orders of protection against each other. Sources close to the investigation say an alleged dispute over property and a fuel scam led to the Porter's homicides.
Since the suspects were indicted by a grand jury little has been released about a motive for the killings and none of the suspects will have preliminary hearings because the indictments landed them directly in circuit court.
However, when Campbell was charged court documents revealed that he offered "consideration to one or more persons to kill" the couple and "one or more person accepted the offer."
Phillip Friend will be sentenced at a later date on the murder convictions, which carry a sentence from 10 years to life (30 years in the state of Missouri) in prison. The only possible sentences for a first-degree murder conviction is life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
Merrell has not announced whether he intends to seek the death penalty against Tony Friend, Dusty Hicks or Robert Campbell.