By Glenn Collins
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | 12:01 PM
(HAMILTON) -- Larry Butler, in a pre-arranged plea agreement, pleaded guilty to four counts of solicitation to commit murder and Judge John Bentley sentenced him to four life sentences in the state penitentiary.
The hearing in the Circuit Court of Marion County Tuesday morning lasted about half an hour as Bentley quizzed Butler to ensure that Butler understood what he was about to do.
Assistant District Attorney Neal Cook said that the Mays family was relieved that this is now over.
On the stand, Butler admitted to the four charges. Bentley stated each charge separately and asked Butler how he plead; and to each Butler replied, "Guilty."
Bentley then sentenced Butler to life in prison on each count, to be served concurrently, court costs, and a $50,000 fine. Bentley said to him, "You are going to the state penitentiary for the rest of your life." The agreement also stipulated that Butler cannot apply for probation. He is eligible for parole in 10 years, but officials familiar with his case and the parole system believe he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Bentley read Butler's plea agreement statement into the record: "I am entering these pleas of my own free will. I solicited Hugh Walker to murder my wife ... I wanted my wife dead in order to allow me to be free with the female with whom I was having an affair ... And because there would be financial reward." In the Walker case, Butler said in his plea agreement that he believed the charges against him would be dropped if Walker was dead.
Butler admitted his guilt and told the court, "I take responsibility for my actions." This all stemmed from the attempted murders of Reba Butler and Ruby Mays in the Mays home in Haleyville on the morning of May 23, 2011. Butler pleaded guilty today to hiring Eli Hugh Walker to commit the murders. Walker's attempt failed. Butler also pleaded guilty to soliciting Walker to find someone to kill Walker's wife as well, Betty Walker. She had discovered her husband's involvement in the scheme. Eli Walker came forward and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement.
After investigation by law enforcement, Butler was arrested and charged in the murder for hire conspiracy. Cook praised law enforcement, including DA Investigator Tommy Moore and HPD LT Tim Steien, for their work on the case. Cook said, "Without them, this could have been a worse tragedy."
While in Marion County Jail Butler solicited what turned out to be an undercover ABC agent to kill Walker. Letters sent by Butler to and phone conversations with the undercover agent were unsealed in court and made part of the record as well.
Butler was remanded to the custody of the Marion County Sheriff until he can be turned over to the Department of Corrections. With the Butler case now completed, Walker is expected to plead guilty to two counts of attempted murder, according to officials familiar with the case.