Second Defendant Pleads Guilty in Murder for Hire Conspiracy

JONESBORO, AR— Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro announced that Johnny Hubbard, one of four defendants charged in the killing of a Jonesboro businessman last August, pleaded guilty today in Craighead County Circuit Court.

Ellington said that Hubbard admitted his role in the murder for hire conspiracy that resulted in the murder of Marc Despain, a real estate investor and appraiser. Hubbard’s negotiated plea to the charge of hindering apprehension or prosecution resulted in an 18 year prison term. Hubbard also had his probation on a prior drug conviction revoked and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison on that charge. The prison terms are to run consecutively, Ellington said.

In exchange for prosecutors agreeing to the plea, Hubbard promised to fully cooperate with authorities and testify in the upcoming trials of two of his co-defendants, Carl Kelley and Michelle Despain, the father-in-law and widow of the deceased, Ellington said. A third co-defendant pled guilty on May 7.

“The State reached an agreement with Mr. Hubbard’s defense attorneys in recent days that led to today’s guilty plea,” Ellington stated. “Negotiations have been ongoing for weeks. With Hubbard’s promise of truthful testimony against Michelle Despain and Kelley, the State agreed to the plea bargain for Hubbard.”

Michelle Despain and Kelley are charged with capital murder for conspiring to hire Terrance Odell Barker to kill Despain. Hubbard introduced Kelley to Barker, who acted as the trigger man in the murder.  On May 7, Barker pleaded guilty to first degree murder. The State recommended a 35 year prison sentence for Barker if he provides truthful testimony against other defendants in this case now or in the future. Barker will be officially sentenced at a later date.

Kelley is also accused of driving Barker to Despain’s home and letting him inside the residence to murder his son-in-law.

Ellington added that Despain’s parents, Jack and Tana, approved the plea agreement.

“With today’s guilty plea by Hubbard, the State is one step closer in obtaining justice for Marc Despain and his parents,” Ellington said.

The State was represented by Ellington and Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Mike Walden and Alan Copelin. Hubbard was represented by Craighead County Public Defenders Paul Teufel and Dax Greer.