Ex-officer pleads guilty in drugstore killings

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RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (AP) — A former police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering two people while robbing a pharmacy in the town he was once sworn to protect.

District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said in a phone interview that 38-year-old Jason Holt on Wednesday was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders in the small town of Bean Station, with a population of about 3,000.

According to records, Holt walked into the Down Home Pharmacy around 11:15 a.m. on May 23, 2013, armed with a .22-caliber revolver and wearing gloves and a hoodie pulled up over his face. He ordered everyone in the shop to get behind the counter and then demanded drugs.

After he was given nine bottles of oxycodone, Holt shot pharmacy owner Stephen Lovell, customer Richard Sommerville and two employees. Lovell and Sommerville died, while the two employees survived, although Dunn said the survivors continue to suffer from their injuries.

Dunn said he believes Holt shot everyone to eliminate witnesses in the town where he used to police the streets.

"He was a regular customer there," Dunn said. "They knew him and he knew them."

Holt was captured within minutes in a wooded area behind the pharmacy.

Dunn said he could have pursued a death penalty case but decided to allow the plea after consulting with the victims and their relatives.

The plea means the victims and their relatives will not have to endure years of legal proceedings, Dunn said. And the sentence of life without the possibility of parole allayed their concerns that Holt could get out of prison.

Besides working as Bean Station officer, Holt was a deputy for Grainger County until he was placed on medical leave in 2004.

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