Vega plea saves resources

Published 3:42 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tyla Vega’s guilty plea in Warren County’s longest outstanding murder case saved the county time and resources and guaranteed a longer sentence.

Vega pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder, and Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick will sentence her May 1. The 18-year-old who killed her stepmother with a high-powered hunting rifle four years ago faces between 20 and 40 years in prison.

Vega was set to face retrial this week after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in March 2014.

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We believe Vega and the District Attorney’s Office made the right decision by reaching a plea agreement in the four-year-old murder case, saving the county the cost of sequestering a jury for up to a week and putting witnesses though a strenuous trial setting.

If a jury had been selected this week, each would have to be paid and put up in a motel room. The county would foot the bill for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Extra deputies would have been patrolling the halls of the courthouse.

Vega’s initial trial was certainly one of the most contentious we’ve seen in recent years. Testimony was tinged with race and accusations of emotional abuse.

Jurors in Vega’s first trial obviously thought she was guilty. Yet, they couldn’t reach a verdict but their vote shows a certain feeling of guilt. Ten jurors wanted to convict her of murder, and the remaining two wanted to find her guilty of manslaughter.

Manslaughter carries a sentence of one to 20 years, meaning Vega could have walked free after her trial because she has been in the Warren County Jail for more than three years.

“We were concerned because of the nature of the defense argument some jurors might be swayed to a manslaughter conviction. We believe strongly this is not a case of manslaughter but a case of murder,” District Attorney Ricky Smith said.

Vega was just 14 when she fired the rifle at her stepmother Michelle Vega. It was an ugly case, with horrid details emerging from both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Now, with her admission of guilt, the healing can begin.