Capital Murder Suspect Makes Plea Deal with Prosecutors - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Capital Murder Suspect Makes Plea Deal with Prosecutors

Staff Report
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - A murder suspect confesses, makes a deal and successfully dodges a death sentence.

22-year-old Derek Elms admitted his part in the brutal murder of Robert Thornhill, Junior two years ago.

But he didn't do it alone and he was willing to turn on his friends in exchange for a life sentence.

Helms is the first of four people connected to the Thornhill murder to get a prison sentence.

For the others, the death penalty is still very much in play.

Helms was arrested back in June of 2008, along with 20-year-old Willie Hurst, 21-year-old Heather Mitchell and 22-year-old Kathleen Newbury.

As part of Helms' plea deal, he has agreed to testify against Hurst and Mitchell when they go to trial on capital murder charges for their alleged part in the brutal murder.

Right now, there's no word on when Hurst and Mitchell are going to trial or why Newbury wasn't included in the deal.

The arrest of all four suspects in the Thornhill murder came more than a month after the 23-year-old disappeared.

Robert Thornhill's family reported him missing two days after he was killed in May of 2008.

Investigators say Thornhill's throat had been cut while he was struggling, and was shot with a crossbow before his body was dumped in a pasture northwest of Goldsmith and set on fire.

All four suspects were arrested at a home on Tripp in June.

After interrogating the suspects, one of them led authorities to Thornhill's body.

Authorities have never released a motive for the murder, but the FBI later confirmed there was love triangle between Mitchell, Hurst and Thornhill.

The three remaining suspects are still in the Ector County Jail waiting for trial.

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