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A nearly three-year-old murder case involving the stabbing death of a 90-year-old Heath Springs woman was concluded Tuesday with the sole suspect pleading guilty to her murder.
Donald Cleveland Brevard, 20, pleaded guilty to five charges relating to the death of Sara Faulkenberry on June 14, 2005. Brevard was 17 at the time of the killing.
Brevard broke into Faulkenberry's home and stabbed her multiple times during a struggle, 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said. The fight lasted several minutes and in various parts of the home before Faulkenberry couldn't withstand Brevard any longer, Barfield said.
That afternoon, a niece arrived at the home to visit Faulkenberry to find her body on the kitchen floor.
"Your honor, this is a very brutal case," Barfield said.
Members of the Faulkenberry's family wept during the plea.
Brevard, wearing an orange prison-issued jump suit, gave yes and no answers during the proceedings. He made no other comments.
He entered an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging there's enough evidence for a conviction. Brevard's attorney, Randy Eason, said his client had adamantly claimed he didn't kill Faulkenberry.
"He understands he's pleading guilty to murder, but that plea means he cannot adequately defend himself," Eason said.
Brevard pleaded guilty to murder, commission of a violent crime with a firearm or knife and first-degree burglary in connection with Faulkenberry's death. He also pleaded guilty to another first-degree burglary charge as well as a grand larceny (over $5,000) charge for the burglary of another Heath Springs home a week before the murder.
Judge Brooks Goldsmith sentenced Brevard to 30 years in prison for the murder, giving him credit for nearly three years already served in jail. He received sentences for each of the other charges, with those sentences to run concurrently.
Barfield noted the amount of time that has elapsed between June 2005 and how a trial would simply consume more time. He said members of Faulkenberry's family wanted the ordeal to come to an end and had accepted the plea arrangement.
"This is our sixth trip to this courthouse with this matter and it has been very hard on our family," said Coke Faulkenberry, one of Sara Faulkenberry's children.
He looked at Brevard and said prisoners will "deal" with him since he killed a mother. He said Brevard would be at "the top of their list," noting he had done research of the types of criminals treated most harshly by their fellow prisoners.
"Only then will I be able to forgive your soul," he said.
Brevard, who has an 11th grade education and had spent much of his education in special education classes, was evaluated for competency to stand trial by the state Department of Disability and Special Needs.
The DDSN report found that Brevard was competent to stand trial.
Goldsmith accepted that report and followed Barfield's sentencing recommendation after Eason agreed to them.
Also on Tuesday, Andre Ballard, 22, pleaded guilty to involvement in the burglary with Brevard a week before Sara Faulkenberry's murder.
More than $17,000 in property was taken during the burglary, including guns, knives, collector's coins, jewelry, musical equipment and prescription medicine, according to the homeowner.
Ballard pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and grand larceny over $5,000 in connection with that incident.
He also pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary charges for entering Faulkenberry's house on June 14, 2005, after Brevard had killed her, according to authorities.
Ballard went to Faulkenberry's house when Brevard offered to prove to Ballard that he had murdered someone, Barfield said.
Ballard was sentenced to 10 years in prison, suspended to five years of probation. He was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution.
Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at email@example.com or (803) 416-8416