Danny Hembree pleads guilty in second murder

Danny Hembree pleads guilty in second murder

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by WCNC.com Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 5 at 1:21 PM

GASTONIA, N.C. -- Convicted killer Danny Hembree took a plea deal Tuesday morning in the 2009 murder of Randi Saldana, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Hembree had already been sentenced to death by a Gaston County judge on November 18, 2011 for the murder of 17-year-old Heather Catterton in 2009.

On Tuesday Hembree was sentenced to 26 years in prison for Saldana's death--avoiding a second death penalty sentence.  With the plea, prosecutors dismissed Hembree's connection to a 1992 murder of 30-year-old Deborah Ratchford, the newspaper reported.

Hembree has previously confessed to killing both Catterton and Saldana and claimed responsibility for Ratchford's death.  Saldana's burned body was found in Blacksburg, South Carolina.  Ratchford, meanwhile, was slashed to death in a Gastonia cemetery.

In April of 2012 a judge declared a mistrial in the Saldana case because Hembree said he had a letter claiming to prove that he had a sexual relationship with the Assistant District Attorney.

Saldana's sister had to be taken away from the courtroom on April 2 by deputies after she ran toward Hembree screaming that he killed her sister.

In the 2011 trial for Catterton, jurors were shown confessions where Hembree claimed he suffocated Catterton by putting a plastic bag over her head.

Before the sentence was imposed by Judge Beverly Beal last November, Hembree said he hoped this would bring closure for the Catterton family.

He then read the words from a song by Johnny Cash. "I've seen 'em come and I seen 'em die and long ago I stopped asking why," he read aloud.

No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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