Carl Kelley gets 35 years for hiring son-in-law’s killer

JONESBORO, AR— Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro announced that Carl D. Kelley, one of four defendants charged in the conspiracy killing of his daughter’s husband in August 2011, was officially sentenced today in Craighead County Circuit Court.

Ellington said that Kelley admitted his role in the murder for hire conspiracy that resulted in the death of his son-in-law Marc Despain, a real estate investor and appraiser. Kelley entered a plea of guilty to first degree murder before Circuit Judge Victor Hill on December 4 of last year. Kelley was sentenced to 35 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction today.

Jack and Tana Despain, parents of Marc Despain, addressed the court and Kelley with victim impact statements, Ellington said.

Four defendants: Kelley, convicted shooter Terrance Barker and Johnny Hubbard were arrested days after the killings on charges of capital murder for conspiring to kill Despain. Evidentiary developments this past spring led Jonesboro Police to arrest Michelle Despain, Marc Despain’s wife and Kelley’s daughter, for her alleged role in the conspiracy to kill her husband.

Hubbard introduced Kelley to Barker, who acted as the trigger man in the murder. Kelley is also accused of driving Barker to Despain’s home and letting him inside the residence to murder his son-in-law.

On May 7, Barker pleaded guilty to first degree and was sentenced to 35 years in prison on the condition he fully cooperates with authorities in future proceedings involving the murder. Hubbard entered a plea to a reduced charge of hindering apprehension and received an 18 year sentence. His probation on a previous drug conviction was revoked and he was sentenced to 40 years. The prison terms are to run consecutively for a total of 58 years, Ellington said.

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

“We have not entered into any of these pleas without the consent of Marc’s parents. We have been able to obtain guilty pleas from three of the four defendants in this case. Marc’s parents have been in full agreement with our negotiations, and we will now focus our sights on the final defendant,” the prosecutor said.

Kelley’s plea and sentencing means that his daughter, Michelle Despain, remains as the final defendant in the case. She is charged with capital murder and is due back in court on January 28, 2013 for a pretrial hearing and her trial is scheduled to begin February 11.

“With Kelley’s guilty plea and sentencing, and thanks to the good work Detective Vic Brooks and the Jonesboro Police Department, the State is one step closer in obtaining justice for Marc Despain and his parents,” Ellington said. “Today’s proceedings will allow us to focus our time and resources on the Michelle Despain case.”

The State was represented by Ellington and Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Mike Walden and Alan Copelin. Kelley was represented by public defenders Charlene Henry of Jonesboro and Katherine Streett of Little Rock.