One of eight people accused of kidnapping, robbing and killing a Lakewood man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a deal that would allow him to avoid a murder conviction if he cooperates with authorities.
Joshua Benjamin Stevens, 23, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping, but Pierce County deputy prosecutor James Schacht told Superior Court Judge Kathryn Nelson he would drop the murder charge if Stevens continues to help prosecutors make their case against the other defendants.
That would include providing testimony at trial, Schacht said.
Stevens could shave more than 20 years off his potential sentence by holding up his end of the bargain.
Stevens admitted in court that he helped bind Dean Barker with duct tape Sept. 7 and robbed the 51-year-old man of his watch and backpack. Stevens wrote in court papers he later watched acquaintances drive Barker away from a house in Tacoma.
Barker’s body was discovered the next day outside a vacant house in Graham. He’d been beaten and strangled, authorities said.
Some of the defendants told detectives that they were mad at Barker because they believed he sexually assaulted a woman in the group and might have had something to do with the brief disappearance of one defendant’s 3-year-old daughter.
Police later found the girl unharmed.
Stevens is to be sentenced May 31, but that date might change depending on the outcome of his co-defendants’ cases.Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644