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Morning Sun
  • Eastman pleads 'no contest' to murder charges

  • GIRARD — A last-minute deal has come one step closer to shoring up a Pittsburg robbery and murder.

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  • GIRARD — A last-minute deal has come one step closer to shoring up a Pittsburg robbery and murder.
    On Friday, Robert E. Eastman, 27, of Weir, entered a plea of no contest to charges of second degree intentional murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary in the May 2010 robbery and murder of Rafael Baeza Hernandez.
    “We’re really happy,” said Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso. “We literally found out this afternoon that there might be a settlement in the case.”
    Gayoso said that the plea agreement was submitted to Eastman and his attorney during a settlement conference on Aug. 4. It was not until 2 p.m. Friday that Gayoso learned that Eastman had agreed to the settlement. The plea halts Eastman’s scheduled jury trial which was expected to start on Monday.
    “We were still proceeding to go to trial and even were prepping five witnesses today,” Gayoso said.
    Immediately after a short hearing in Crawford County District Court Friday, Judge Donald Noland found Eastman guilty of all counts.
    The charges stem from a robbery involving seven people, which prosecutors said ended in the death of Hernandez on May 20, 2010. Prosecutors said Eastman and several other co-defendants tried to rob Hernandez. During the robbery, prosecutors alleged that Eastman shot Hernandez.
    In July, Scott Miller, 31, of Pittsburg, pled no contest to aggravated robbery in District Court in Girard. His trial was scheduled to start July 11, and Miller had originally been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. Based on sentencing guidelines, Miller will likely face 18 years in prison. He will be sentenced at 11 a.m. on Aug. 24.
    Miller’s wife, Melissa Miller, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, a felony, in November.
    The state also reached plea deals with Crystal Sawyer, Alexis Tillson, Becky Wingo and Shamaya Mejia in relation to the case.
    However, Gayoso said that charges against Mejia have not been dropped and that, in their opinion, she has not lived up to the plea agreement. He said that his office will file a motion to set aside that plea agreement next week.
    “Due to the fact that we believe she has not honored her plea agreement, we will proceed with the original charges next week,” Gayoso said. “We will determine later if we want to proceed with those charges.”
    Mejia was originally charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, a felony.
    As part of their agreements, Wingo was sentenced to 13 years in prison, Sawyer was sentenced to eight years and Tilson was sentenced to five years. Melissa Miller received a sentence of 36 months in jail.
    All three charges Eastman was convicted on are felonies. Under sentencing guidelines, Eastman is expected to receive just over 24 1/2 years in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 13, 2011.
    Page 2 of 2 - In addition, Gayoso says that his office has been in contact with Hernandez’s family, who live in Mexico, as to the status of the case. He says that his office has communicated through the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City, Mo.
    Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 139

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