One of two men convicted of killing an elderly couple in their south Wichita home in 2014 won’t be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Carlos Delacadena-Edwards said he felt coerced into accepting a plea deal in lieu of going to trial on first-degree murder charges. But Sedgwick County District Court Judge Bruce Brown ruled last week that the 19-year-old was not under any undue pressure when he pleaded guilty to helping Steven Wade Edwards II fatally shoot Martha Lopez Moreno and Godofredo Moreno-Lopez on Oct. 16.
“I don’t find any coercion or mistreatment or the defendant being taken advantage of,” Brown said after listening to about three hours of testimony from Delacadena-Edwards, his mother, his former defense attorney Steven Mank and a private investigator.
Delacadena-Edwards pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree intentional murder and one count of aggravated robbery on May 16 before the scheduled start of his jury trial.
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Prosecutors originally had charged him with two counts of first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery after he reportedly accompanied Edwards to the house in the 600 block of South Ida to collect a debt from the couple’s son, stood guard while they were shot and then helped steal a vehicle and other property.
Edwards, who originally was charged with capital murder, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary the week before Delacadena-Edwards entered his guilty plea.
Edwards is also seeking to have his plea withdrawn.
The couple killed were in their 70s. Delacadena-Edwards was 17 at the time.
Delacadena-Edwards contended in his written request to withdraw the plea and during testimony last week that he felt pressured into taking the deal, which recommends he spend about 27 years in prison, in part because his defense attorney thought the evidence against him was strong and convictions by a jury might lead to a longer sentence, possibly 50 or 60 years or more.
He also said he didn’t think he had enough time to mull over the plea deal before making a decision. Prosecutors offered it less than 24 hours before Delacadena-Edwards accepted it, according to testimony given in court.
“I can’t just think about that overnight,” Delacadena-Edwards told the judge.
Mank countered by saying Delacadena-Edwards had unreasonable expectations of the justice system. The teen, he testified, expressed interest in receiving probation if convicted, “which I told him wasn’t realistic.”
“I told him I don’t think it’s a great (plea) deal but that it was fair and he should take it,” Mank said.
In the end, Brown said Mank’s representation of Delacadena-Edwards “appeared to be superb.” He also said there was no evidence the teen received false or inaccurate information about the plea agreement and that the time given to consider it wasn’t inappropriate.
Addressing Delacadena-Edwards directly at the close of the hearing, Brown said: “I am convinced if you were back in the same situation, day of trial, jury’s waiting, you would’ve done the same thing.”