A judge assessed a third defendant 15 years in prison Monday for his role in the murder of Jacob Wages of Joplin.
Circuit Judge David Dally sentenced Elijah N. Taylor to the term on a conviction for second-degree murder at a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court. The judge also assessed the defendant five years for the related crime of burglary and ordered that the two terms run concurrently.
Five young men were charged in the shooting death of Wages, 23, in the early morning hours of July 6, 2012, inside the victim’s home at 1912 S. Pearl Ave. According to several of the defendants’ own testimony in court, they broke into the victim’s home to rob him of a stash of Ecstasy pills and cash that they believed he had in his possession.
Taylor and a second defendant, Marcus D. Stephens, both of Tulsa, Okla., were 16 years old at the time, but they were certified to stand trial as adults.
Both of them, now 18, and Cody E. Stephens, 22, of Parsons, Kan., accepted plea offers from the Jasper County prosecutor’s office that resulted in concurrent prison terms of 15 years for murder and five years for burglary.
The triggerman in the case, Daniel D. Hartman, who was 17 when the crime was committed, was convicted of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and burglary at a trial in January. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 21 in Circuit Judge Gayle Crane’s courtroom. Hartman could receive up to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The fifth defendant, Elijah Taylor’s older brother, Johnathan “J.T.” Taylor, 20, has yet to take a plea deal or go to trial.
Elijah Taylor came to Joplin with Marcus Stephens and Hartman, to visit his brother and meet girls, according to his testimony at Hartman’s trial. Other defendants testified that Hartman and Johnathan Taylor were doing Ecstasy, and that their efforts to score more of the drug once they started to lose their high led to the scheme to break into Wages’ home and rob him. They found neither the drugs nor the money.
AS PART OF HIS PLEA DEAL, Elijah Taylor testified against the suspected shooter in the Jacob Wages murder case, Daniel Hartman, at Hartman’s trial in January. Taylor told the court that Hartman bragged after the murder that Wages was not the first person he had shot.