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Plea deal spells shorter prison time for killer

Investigator says circumstantial case risked letting Gaddy walk

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

 A Denver man, who’s been behind bars since 2010 for killing a neighbor and burning down his residence, received a reduced sentence Tuesday following a plea agreement, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said.

A judge consolidated John Paul Gaddy’s charges of felony manslaughter and first-degree arson, giving him a sentence of between 110 months and 141 months, according to an agency press release. Gaddy was originally charged with first-degree murder and arson.

The 25-year-old killer, who lived at 1145 Oakbrook Lane, supposedly used a crowbar to beat to death 49-year-old Jimmy William Cole, also of Oakbrook Lane, on July 21, 2010, deputies said. The exact homicide weapon was never confirmed.

After taking Cole’s life, Gaddy burned down the victim’s residence in effort to hide the slaying.

When local firefighters arrived at the scene, they reported spotting blood and the burned body lying in the home’s doorway.

Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Johnson, who worked on taking the murder case to trial, told the Times-News on Thursday afternoon that while Gaddy received a short sentence, Johnson fully trusted the decision of Lincoln County District Attorney Rick Shaffer and Asst. District Attorney Mike Miller, lead prosecutor in the case.

“It’s up to the DA on what kind of pleas they give,” Johnson said. “Yes, he (Gaddy) should have received more time, but I don’t question their decision.”

While investigators had the option to take the case all the way to trial, they ran the risk of letting Gaddy walk free since they had more circumstantial than physical evidence, Johnson said.

“Sometimes you have to take what you think is best and can prove,” he said.

Gaddy has several prior felonies on his record including three separate instances of common law robbery from 2005 to 2006, one each in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Rowan counties, along with breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering in Lincoln County in 2004, according to the North Carolina Department of Correction website.

Gaddy will serve his prison time at Piedmont Correctional Institute in Rowan County.

 

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