The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 28, 2011

Woman enters plea in deal with prosecutor’s office

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A Pittsburg woman is facing nearly 13 years in prison for her role in a home invasion robbery in May 2010 that authorities say escalated into a murder.

The Crawford County attorney’s office announced Monday that Rebecca Wingo, 24, has pleaded guilty in Crawford County District Court to second-degree murder for her role in the shooting death of Rafael Baeza Hernandez, 41.

Wingo was one of seven defendants — two men and five women — facing charges related to the shooting. Prosecutors say the shooting took place during a home invasion robbery in the 100 block of West Billings Street in Pittsburg. Hernandez was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Wingo and the other women have plea agreements with Crawford County prosecutors in exchange for their testimony in the cases against Robert Eastman, 27, of Weir, and Scott Miller, 31, of Pittsburg.

Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso said in a telephone interview Monday that Wingo originally was facing felony murder charges. He said Wingo was in the room when Eastman allegedly shot Hernandez, and she has cooperated with authorities throughout the investigation. Gayoso said Wingo will be required to serve 85 percent of her sentence before being eligible for parole.

According to court records, Wingo testified at a pretrial hearing in November 2010 that Eastman and Miller entered Hernandez’s home wearing masks. She said Eastman held Hernandez at gunpoint and demanded that he empty his pockets, but Hernandez, a native of Mexico, was not a fluent English speaker. Wingo testified that she saw Eastman shoot Hernandez “for what I felt was no reason whatsoever.”

Eastman reached an agreement with prosecutors in August in which he pleaded no contest to second-degree intentional murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. He was sentenced in October to nearly 25 years in prison.

Miller reached an agreement with prosecutors in July in which he pleaded no contest to aggravated robbery. He faces a maximum of 18 years in prison. Miller’s wife Melissa, who also was facing charges related to the incident, pleaded guilty in November 2010 to conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. She faces up to 11 years in prison.

Three other female defendants also reached plea agreements with prosecutors. In November of last year, Alexis Tillson, 20, of Pittsburg, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery; she faces up to 20 years in prison. Crystal Sawyer, 22, of Pittsburg, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery; she could face up to eight years in prison.

Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of conspiracy to commit robbery against Shamaya Mejia, 26, of Pittsburg, in exchange for her testimony against Miller and Eastman, but Gayoso alleges that she has not lived up to the terms of her plea agreement. He said Mejia failed to appear for a hearing on Oct. 13, and the court has issued a warrant for her arrest.

Case still open

COUNTY ATTORNEY MICHAEL GAYOSO said that once the case against Shamaya Mejia is completed, his office can close the case. He said his office has been in contact with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City, Mo., which in turn has informed Rafael Hernandez’s family throughout the case.

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