PITTSBURG — One of the men accused in the 2014 murder of Taylor Thomas pleaded no contest to a charge of first degree murder Friday, in Crawford County District Court.
Bryan Bridges, 21, plead out as part of a deal which saw charges of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary dropped.
District Court Judge Kurtis I. Loy accepted the no contest plea — in which a defendant agrees that the evidence against him is overwhelming, but does not admit guilt — and found Bridges guilty of first degree murder. Bridges will now face life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He will also have mandatory lifetime supervision.
Sentencing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. January 9, 2017.
Thomas was killed in a 2014 home invasion in which Bridges, Corbin Spragg and Darius Rainey allegedly broke into Joseph Otter’s home to steal money and marijuana.
Spragg, who has pleaded guilty as part of an agreement, to one count of second degree murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping testified in a preliminary hearing earlier this year that the plan for the robbery which ended with the death of Thomas on Oct. 9, 2014, began the evening before.
Spragg, 21, testified that his cousin, Tyler Smith, had originally come to Spragg looking for someone to rob because Smith was broke and needed money.
Spragg said that he suggested Joseph Otter, whom he knew as a fellow marijuana dealer, to Smith and they then contacted Rainey to enlist him in the plan.
He said he, Smith and Rainey drove around town smoking marijuana until Rainey had to go to work at McDonalds. Spragg then testified that he and Smith continued to drive around Pittsburg, smoking pot and Spragg made some pot sales.
Late the evening of Oct. 8, Spragg said Smith decided he was tired and did not want to participate in the robbery and so Spragg enlisted Bridges to take his place.
After allegedly picking up Rainey and Bridges and retrieving a pair of firearms — a shotgun and a .40 caliber handgun — from Juan Salas-Rueda, and donning a trio of masks purchased earlier at Wal-Mart, they used what Spragg described as a “battering ram” to break down the back door of Otter’s house.
Salas-Rueda was recently sentenced to 61 months in prison on charges of aggravated robbery and faces deportation to Mexico on his release.
Otter testified that he and his girlfriend were awake and preparing to watch a movie when they heard the back door broken in. Having been robbed before, Otter said he opened the front door and he and his girlfriend fled across the street.
The robbery ended with the death of Thomas after he was shot by Bridges. Rainey is the only defendant who has not either plead out or been sentenced.
Bridges was the last suspect to be arrested in connection with the home invasion. He was arrested by United States Marshals on February 28 in Juaréz, Mexico.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.