KINGMAN - In an effort to be transferred out of the Mohave County Jail, Darrell Ketchner has pleaded guilty to one of the counts in the capital murder case against him.
Ketchner made his first court appearance in months Friday. He pleaded guilty to misconduct involving weapons for possessing a weapon the night of July 4, 2009, the same night the state says he attacked his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Allison, and her children.
Allison's 18-year-old daughter, Ariel, was stabbed to death in the attack.
Jennifer survived despite being shot in the head. Four other people in the home, including two younger children of Ketchner and Allison's, escaped the home without physical injury.
Ketchner's lawyers explained that their client was pleading guilty so that he could begin serving his sentence at a state prison.
They said that communication had deteriorated between Ketchner and jail staff, including arguing about when and where he could meet with his defense team. Defense lawyer John Napper said the other alternative would have been settling the matter through litigation.
"We don't want to continually have to fight this battle," Napper told Judge Rick Williams.
Williams accepted the plea then sentenced Ketchner to 15 years, the maximum allowed by law.
Ketchner had the opportunity to make a statement before sentencing but declined. Several members of the Allison family were present but also declined to make a statement to the court.
Prosecutor Megan McCoy is seeking the death penalty for first-degree murder and a number of other charges in connection with the attack. McCoy said that through his plea, Ketchner has essentially admitted to being in the Allison home at the time of the murder, although she still intends to prove a number of aggravating factors in the case at trial.
No date has been set for the trial. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 22. It is not clear if Ketchner will attend, but Napper said his client would continue to waive his appearance at non-substantive hearings.
Ketchner is no stranger to prison. He served several stints in the 1990s for various drug possession and sales convictions.