INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A former suburban Kansas City minister surprised prosecutors on Wednesday by admitting in court that he killed an insurance salesman who had been a member of his church and at whose funeral he gave the eulogy.
David Love, 52, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the March 31, 2010, shooting death of Randy Stone, 42, who was found dead in his insurance office in Independence.
Stone's wife, 41-year-old Teresa Stone, was charged earlier this year with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in her husband's death. She has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond, and she hasn't commented publicly about the charges against her. Her attorney, John P. O'Connor, did not immediately respond to a phone message Wednesday seeking comment.
Love's attorney, Molly Hastings, told The Associated Press on Wednesday it was well known that her client and Teresa Stone had been having an affair.
"That was not something we intended to dispute during the course of the trial," Hastings said. "There was always a distinction between the affair and the homicide. All parties conceded there was a relationship between the two."
She said the plea bargain was offered to her on Wednesday, but Love initially turned it down. By Monday, he had changed his mind.
"It was worth it to us and to my client to avoid the risk of spending the rest of his life in prison for something that gave him a window of opportunity for release," she said.
The prosecutor's office said the plea deal does not require Love to assist prosecutors in their case against Teresa Stone. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced life in prison without the chance of parole. But as part of his plea deal, he agreed to a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25½ years.
"I was surprised he accepted it," said assistant Jackson County prosecutor Tammy Dickinson. "He had not accepted responsibility for his crime to this point. It was a good resolution."
"This gives him some sliver of hope he will get out in his 70s," she said.
By changing his plea, Love won't be dragging the victim's family or his own through what would have been a difficult trial, Dickenson said.
"He was trying to spare his family," she said. "But most importantly, he was trying to spare himself."
Love was pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Independence for several years before resigning in April 2010, shortly after police searched the church while investigating Stone's death. Love moved to South Carolina, where he was working as a truck driver when he was arrested in Boiling Springs in November 2010.
Days after Stone's death, Love gave the eulogy at his funeral, saying Stone had treated him like a best friend.
Independence Police Chief Tom Dailey said Love's role as pastor makes the murder case especially cruel.
"When there's a violation of trust, it's devastating when these types of crimes are committed," Dailey said.
Dailey said there was so much evidence against Love that he eventually realized he wouldn't be able to beat the charge.
"There comes a tipping point where it becomes overwhelming," Dailey said. "I think that's what brought about this plea."