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Man pleads guilty to ’83 KFC murders in Texas

NEW BOSTON Texas Romeo Pinkerton, a convicted burglar, pleaded guilty here Monday to the 1983 murders of five people abducted from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore, Texas.

Pinkerton, 49, entered the plea as part of a deal to avoid a possible death penalty. He received a life sentence for each of the five deaths.

District Judge J. Clay Gossett said the victims’ families approved the plea bargain.

Pinkerton was be the first defendant to go to trial in the deaths. The victims were Mary Tyler, 37; Opie Ann Hughes, 39; Joey Johnson, 20; David Maxwell, 20; and Monte Landers, 19. All were employees of the KFC unit except for Landers, who was a friend of Johnson and Maxwell. The victims were abducted during an apparent robbery at the KFC unit and were found shot to death along a remote road.

Pinkerton's cousin, Darnell Hartsfield, 46, also is charged with capital murder in the deaths and is scheduled to go to trial early next year, according to the Texas attorney general’s office. He has pleaded not guilty.

Blood found on a handkerchief at the scene of the 1983 abductions was instrumental in bringing the two men to trial in one of the state’s longest unsolved mass murders. DNA tests showed Pinkerton's blood was found on a napkin at the restaurant. The prosecution claimed Hartsfield’s blood was found on a box of cash register tapes.

Hartsfield has been in a Texas prison since 1995, serving 40 years on drug and organized crime convictions.

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