PINEVILLE — The jury trial for Caleb Saddler is off, as a guilty plea has been entered in the case.
On Tuesday morning, Saddler, 29, last of Del Rio, Texas, pleaded guilty to a Class C felony charge of involuntary manslaughter. Saddler was originally charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the May 2012 shooting death of Michael Smith, 31, of Goodman.
In accepting the guilty plea, Presiding Judge Timothy Perigo ordered a sentencing assessment to be completed by Oct. 28, with a sentencing hearing set for 1 p.m. Nov. 5. As involuntary manslaughter is a Class C felony, the penalty ranges from five to seven years in prison.
"[The reduced charge] was based on the evidence that could have been presented at trial," McDonald County Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce said. "With that evidence, the element of involvement, manslaughter in the first degree seemed to be the best fit."
Pierce said Smith's family agreed to the reduced charge.
Acting on a tip, Newton County deputies found Smith's charred body inside a plastic barrel that had been sealed with cement and rolled into a ravine on a Newton County farm near the intersection of Trout Farm Road and Impala Drive. The property purportedly belongs to a relative of Saddler's. Smith had been shot once in the head with a handgun. A .45 caliber pistol, thought to be the murder weapon, was later recovered from a relative of Saddler's in Granby.
According to the McDonald County Sheriff's Department, unnamed witnesses say that Saddler shot Smith on the night of May 17-18, 2012, at a home about five miles west of Goodman on Route B, after the two got into an argument.
Saddler was arrested May 24, 2012, in Del Rio in connection with Smith's murder, held for a day by Texas authorities, then brought back to McDonald County after waiving extradition.
Saddler has lived both in Neosho and Granby and attended Neosho High School.