CATEGORY: Courts

AUTHOR: BROWN

HED:Mahan admits guilt in killing

By LaRaye Brown

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC - Just as jury selection was narrowing Monday, accused killer Sherry Lynn Mahan struck a deal with the District Attorney's Office.

After 200 prospective jurors showed up at the Pontotoc County Courthouse and the judge had narrowed the group to 142, Mahan, 22, of Ecru, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of manslaughter and burglary.

She was originally charged with capital murder, armed robbery and larceny of a commercial building in the Jan. 29, 1995, beating death of 18-year-old Cindy Tutor.

District Attorney John Young said he was surprised by the plea.

"I really didn't expect it to get worked out today," Young said. "She played a lesser part than (Ashley Ray Stites) did."

Mahan's attorney, Gene Barton, declined to comment.

Mahan admitted to being present when her boyfriend, Stites, beat Tutor to death with a tire iron, took her keys to the Dollar General store in Pontotoc and robbed the store of approximately $4,500. Mahan waited in the car.

Tutor's body was found in the trunk of her white Mustang on Jan. 30, 1995, the day Stites and Mahan were arrested.

In March 1996, Stites pleaded guilty to the same charges Mahan originally faced and was sentenced to life without parole for the capital murder charge, 30 years for the armed robbery charge and seven years for robbing a commercial building.

Admitting guilt allowed Mahan to escape those charges.

Her plea was entered shortly before 1:30 p.m. Monday. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 7.

Young said his office is recommending Mahan's sentences be consecutive: 20 years for the manslaughter charge and seven years for the burglary charge.

"Her co-defendant was the person who has confessed to killing (Tutor)," Young said. "He implicated her and she had admitted to being there when this was done.

"We felt that under the circumstances - with him having a life without parole sentence and being the primary defendant - she was actually an accessory," Young said. "We felt it was the best thing to do."

Mahan remains free on the $50,000 bond she was originally released on after her 1995 arrest.

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