Delaware Man Charged in 1967 Arkansas Murder Pleads Guilty - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Man Charged in 1967 Arkansas Murder Pleads Guilty

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James L. Clay (Photo: Georgetown Police Department) James L. Clay (Photo: Georgetown Police Department)

(AP)- A Georgetown, Delaware man charged in Arkansas in the nearly 50-year-old shooting death of a North Little Rock man pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder.
    
Prosecutor Henry Boyce said James Leon Clay, 69, pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to killing James Ricks, 27, in June 1967 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement in which the charge was reduced from first-degree murder, which carried a potential life sentence.
    
"Mr. Ricks surviving family members have consented to this plea agreement," Boyce said. "The guilty plea is a sure thing."
    
Attorneys for Clay did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
    
Clay was charged in March 2015 after a former prison cellmate in Delaware told authorities he had admitted to killing Ricks. The former inmate wore a hidden microphone during a later meeting with Clay, in which Clay repeated his story.
    
Arkansas prosecutors said Clay and his now-dead brother, Leon Clay, had robbed a Little Rock pawn shop in June 1967 and found Ricks asleep in his car after their vehicle broke down. Prosecutors alleged the brothers shot and wounded Ricks, handcuffed him and drove about 90 miles to a farm near Newport where James Clay shot Ricks in the head.
    
Ricks' skeletal remains would be found that August.
    
Clay and his brother were arrested in Maryland on June 20, 1967, for carrying concealed weapons, which police linked to the pawn shop theft. A sheriff's affidavit also said they had Ricks' stolen car and were eventually convicted of transporting the stolen car and firearms in interstate commerce, but neither was charged with killing Ricks.
    
Boyce said he doesn't know why Clay wasn't then charged with murder.
    
"I can't really speak to what went through the mind of particular authorities at that time," Boyce said, adding that it wasn't certain then whether Ricks was killed in Pulaski County, where he was abducted, or Jackson County, where his body was found.
    
Boyce said Clay's admission to his former cellmate nailed down the location of the fatal shooting.
    
"Of course, they did not have his confession (in 1967) and they could not place him in Jackson County," Boyce said.

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