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Man Pleads Guilty to Beating Death of Counselor

Man Pleads Guilty to Beating Death of Counselor

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CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- One of two men accused of beating their group home counselor to death with an aluminum baseball bat has pleaded guilty.

Jesse Simmons, 18, of Wilmington, Del., entered his guilty plea Monday in the March death of Anson Arnett. In exchange, the state took the death penalty off the table and will recommend a 16-year prison sentence.

Simmons will be sentenced March 15th, just days before another teen charged in the southern Utah crime is to go on trial.

Sean Graham, 17, of Rockville, Md., also was initially charged with capital murder. But that was reduced to a first-degree felony last month, meaning he won't face the death penalty.

However, the Utah Attorney General's office is appealing the lower charge. If the Utah Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal, Graham's trial likely will be continued.

Arnett was killed on March 8, beaten with a baseball bat and left locked in a closet. The two youths allegedly fled the scene in the academy's van with some items that could be pawned.

After Monday's hearing, Simmons' Salt Lake City attorney, Stephen McCaughey, said the agreement was a "good resolution" to a crime that has heaped grief on the families of Simmons and Arnett. He said Simmons expressed remorse and is ready to serve his time.

"He is a decent kid who made a mistake," said McCaughey. "It's a sad situation."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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