Final suspect in killing of Rowan County firefighter pleads guilty

Final suspect in killing of Rowan County firefighter pleads guilty

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The fourth of four suspects originally charged in the robbery and shooting death of Rowan County firefighter Marcus Kauffman pleaded guilty in court Monday.

Jaylend Turner, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, felony breaking and/or entering, felony larceny after breaking and/or entering, felony larceny of a firearm and a recent charge of felony possession of a phone/communication device by inmate.

Marcus Kauffman was shot in the head during a robbery at his home on Chenault Road, in western Rowan County, on December 2, 2013.

The judge sentenced Turner to between 160 and 204 months in prison, with credit for time served. Turner has been in jail since Dec. 6, 2013.

"It's important for the Court to know that we reached this disposition after considering a number of factors," District Attorney Brandy Cook said:

  1. We carefully reviewed the evidence against this defendant. We, along with the defense, knew that this case, if tried before a jury, rested on the cooperation and testimony of co-defendant Khari McClelland, since he was the only person who could identify Jaylend Turner at the scene of the crime.
  2. We took into consideration the wishes of Maryann Kauffman and David and Linda Kauffman.  They expressed to our office a desire to avoid having to re-live the events and the uncertainty that a jury trial would bring.  They are in agreement to the disposition in this case.
  3. We also considered that the person who had the gun in his possession and made the decision to shoot Marcus Kauffman was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus additional years in prison.”

Kauffman and his wife, Maryann, were returning home from a Thanksgiving trip in 2013 when they noticed a suspicious vehicle parked near their home that appeared to be broken-down. Marcus dropped his wife off at a friend's house and returned to offer assistance.

According to deputies, Kauffman returned to discover that the people at the car appeared to be removing items from his home. Those two men were later identified as Turner and Khari McClelland.

Kauffman called 911 to report the incident, but during the conversation told the dispatcher that shots were being fired before the call was lost. Kauffman was found in his car with a severe gunshot wound to the back of his head. The car had crashed into a tree.

He remained on life support for nearly three weeks after the shooting and died December 20 at Carolinas Medical Center.

Four people were originally charged in connection with the case.

Tramel Devon Hart was originally charged with accessory after the fact, but earlier this month was sentenced to 6-17 months in prison after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.  Hart did receive credit for the 1038 days he spent in jail awaiting trial, according to Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook.

Last month, suspect Michael Dwayne Teasley, 28, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen goods and was sentenced to six to 17 months in prison. Teasley had been charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Teasley was given credit for the 817 days he has served in the Rowan County Detention Center awaiting trial. Teasley was released on bond in 2016.

McClelland, who was facing the death penalty, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison in 2016.

Investigators have said McClelland and Jaylend Turner stole Kauffman's gun and laptop as well as other items. The laptop was tracked to a Statesville home where investigators spoke with Teasley, who told them he bought the laptop from a man for $200.

Maryanne Kauffman made the following statement  following Turner's guilty plea:

"I just want to make it clear that I'm satisfied with this outcome. I'm definitely thankful we were able to avoid a trial. I want to thank everyone who has been involved these past few years with these cases. All of the time that was put into it, and not only that, but all of the genuine care and concern for us as a family.  I would like for Jaylend Turner to know that I forgive him and that he's never too far from God's grace and love."

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