Facing the possibility of death if convicted in the 2007 murder-for-hire shooting death of 20-year-old Shea Graham, Kenneth R. Walton chose to plead guilty to murder Thursday and was sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole, court records state.
Authorities accused Walton, 41, of shooting Graham under orders from her mother, 44-year-old Lisa Graham. Authorities arrested both just days after the younger Graham was found July 5, 2007, fatally shot and left bleeding on the side of Bowden Road in Russell County.
Walton’s Thursday plea to murder wraps up his case while charges against Lisa Graham, who still faces a possible death penalty, are still pending.
“Part of the agreement was he would testify and tell the truth in the matter of Lisa Graham, who is the mother of Shea Graham,” Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis said.
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Davis said his comments about Walton were limited because of Graham’s pending case.
“Sometimes prosecutors have to do things they don’t want to do,” Davis said of Walton’s plea. “You have to make choices in cases that, ideally, you don’t want to do. There are things I can’t say.”
The capital cases against both Walton and Graham have lingered in the court system, partly because of renovations to the Russell County Courthouse. Local judges ruled that a former library across the street from the courthouse, the makeshift facility used for trials during the renovation, couldn’t accommodate capital cases.
The newly renovated building opened for business a few months ago. Graham’s case is scheduled for trial in September.
A truck driver found Shea Graham’s body as he drove his regular route, telling authorities he first mistook the body for a deer carcass when he passed it. He returned down Bowden Road, got a better look and then called 911.
Shea Graham had no identification on her, though investigators quickly identified her from fingerprints.
Walton, who worked for the victim’s father, became a person of interest. Investigators learned Shea Graham was last seen getting into Walton’s truck at a Victory Drive gas station in Columbus.
Walton denied picking up Shea Graham, though he later changed his story. Investigator Grover Goodrich testified at a 2008 court hearing that Walton ultimately confessed to the shooting. Lisa Graham had long asked him to “do something about Shea.”
No specific payment was promised. Instead, Lisa Graham said she’d take care of Walton, Goodrich said.
Authorities allege Walton and Lisa Graham met at the Columbus Public Library shortly before the shooting, where Walton got the handgun he used in the shooting.