Court accepts plea in murder case

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A plea by the defendant Tuesday afternoon means there will be no need for a murder trial here after all.

Ronnie Joe Hendrick, 41, pled guilty to killing his girlfriend 12 years ago at his home in Westhoff.
 
At a hearing Tuesday afternoon with District Judge Skipper Koetter, Hendrick pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
 
This case had recently been the subject of a cable television series, “Cold Justice.” The program aired six days before the trial was scheduled to begin at DeWitt County courthouse.
 
Advanced publicity of the murder trial  was sufficient enough to cause a mistrial in the eyes of the district judge.
 
Hendrick was accused of killing Pamela Shelly in 200. Originally, Hendrick had told law enforcement that Shelly committed suicide.
 
A television series “Cold Justice” assisted DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department in re-opening the case in 2012 which lead to a grand jury murder indictment against Hendrick.
 
During jury selection Monday morning, Judge Koetter ruled a mistrial because the low number of eligible jurors available for the trial.
 
Out of a juror pool of about 75 people, 10 had been granted exemptions, and 23 said they had either seen the “Cold Justice” show or discussed it with someone.
 
With only about 40 potential jurors remaining, the attorneys and judge agreed there were not enough to move forward with the trial.
 
The case had been reset for June 2014.
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