Romeo Pinkerton Pleads Guilty In KFC Murders

Published: Oct. 30, 2007 at 1:45 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2007 at 3:07 AM CDT
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Twenty-four years ago, a Kilgore fast food restaurant became the scene of one of the state's most notorious unsolved murders. Monday afternoon, one of the men arrested admitted to his part in the killings. Around six o'clock Monday, Romeo Pinkerton pleaded guilty to five counts of murder in the 1983 murders of Opie Hughes, Joey Johnson, David Maxwell, Mary Tyler and Monte Landers. They were all abducted from the Kilgore KFC during an apparent robbery and taken to a field, where they were shot execution-style.

Pinkerton's trial started just two weeks ago in Bowie County, after a change of venue was granted. We learned during the first days of that trial, DNA tests showed one of the victims had been raped and that Pinkerton's blood was at the crime scene.

Pinkerton's co-defendant, Darnell Hartsfield, is still awaiting trial for the murders, and prosecutors alleged during the trial that a third person may have been involved in the shootings. Now, because of Monday's guilty plea, Pinkerton will not get the death penalty, but will be sentenced to five terms of life in prison. However, it is unknown whether he will testify against Hartsfield.

The victim's families tell KLTV they are glad they were finally able to look their loved ones killer in the eyes.   Outside the Rusk County Courthouse Monday afternoon, there were mixed feelings as the man that caused so many families so much pain, finally admitted to his crimes.

"I'm happy with it because it's 24 years of always wondering what happened...but today I got to look him in the eyes and I got to tell him what my day was like the day he took my husband," says Lana Dunkerley.

She got her chance to finally tell Romeo Pinkteron about 20-year-old David Maxwell--the man she just married that year.

"I was 18 years old when I married him, and 18 years old when I buried him," she says holding back her tears. Lana found herself a widow and three months pregnant.

"What those men meant for evil, God made it good, and I have David [her son] to look at and be with and I'm very proud of him," she says.

David Wayne Maxwell, II is now 23 years old.  He never knew his father.

"I wanted him to know that you know a lot of these people they may memories of their loved ones but I never met my father you know just how that impacted my life," David explains.

The family says Pinkteron's guilty plea is the beginning of their new lives.  The end of a fight they fought for 24 years that they can now put behind them.

"I owed to them to stand here until we resolved it and I owed it to him to be a voice...for me today, this is a blessing," Lana says.

Pinkerton will be back in court Tuesday in Bowie County, so the judge can formally dismiss the trial proceedings.

Tracy Watler, Reporting