Testimony during Campbell's trial revealed that Mundy was the group's leader and hatched the plan to go to Shangraw's trailer in 2002 to rob him of a large amount of cocaine and money. When the robbery went awry, Campbell and Simmons opened fire, killing Shangraw and Upton. Smith served as the driver for the others and never handled a gun or entered the trailer, testimony indicated.
"I feel like justice has been served for my son and Ryan, but of course I feel like they should never get out of jail," said Sherry Moore, Upton's mother, after the surprise plea deals were announced. "Now one part that can go behind me is I know who did this to my son. I think it will make it easier to live each day."
Simmons, Smith and Mundy initially were charged with murder and faced the death penalty if convicted. Montgomery said defense attorneys and prosecutors began serious plea negotiations during a hearing last week and finished up the deals during an hour and a half of back-room bargaining Monday morning.
"I don't think you ever get justice when people are murdered," Montgomery said.
Benefits to plea deals
The prosecutor, however, said there are several benefits to the plea deals. The victims' families are spared the ordeal of possibly three death-penalty trials, and the state is spared considerable expense. It also gives the community as a whole the chance to finally begin putting the murders behind it.
Plus, Montgomery said, taking the cases to trial and possibly winning a death sentence against any of the defendants would have just prolonged the cases with little guarantee the defendants would be executed.
"Kentucky has a hard time enforcing the death penalty," he said. "You're looking at 20 years of appeals, and I think they are overturned about 65 percent of the time. Kentucky has only executed two people in 40 years."
Public defenders Barbara Carnes and Brian Barker, who represent Simmons, declined to discuss the deals Monday, saying they would hold their comments until after their client is formally sentenced.
Judge Jeffrey Burdette will sentence Simmons, Smith and Mundy on Aug. 28. Also sentenced then will be Matthew Tolson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for a 20-year recommended sentence.
As part of his deal, Tolson testified against Campbell and his eye-witness account was crucial in building the cases against Campbell and the other defendants, Montgomery said.
Montgomery also pointed out the critical role that DNA evidence played in breaking the case that had gone unsolved for six years and "was basically just sitting in the file." Campbell got arrested for trafficking in cocaine in Madison County last year, and his DNA matched a sample contained on a bandana recovered near Shangraw's trailer after the murders.
"If he hadn't of got caught smuggling cocaine into the jail and spit it up, these guys would have gotten away with murder," Montgomery said.