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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- (WDRB) A plea bargain Friday in a high-profile and emotionally charged murder case. The killer is going to prison, but the victim's family says that's not enough.
The victim's mother has been saying for years that she wants her son's killer to go to trial. But prosecutors say the plea deal was the best way to make sure that justice was served.
In court Friday, James Stover pleaded guilty to manslaughter and theft in the April 2009 killing of Camden McCroskey. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
McCroskey was shot in broad daylight in a Valu Market parking lot, during a drug deal. McCroskey's mother, Kim Vanderhaar, has insisted that the case go to trial.
But the prosecutor says without the plea deal, Stover could have successfully argued self-defense, because McCroskey was armed. "The truth is he was engaging in a drug transaction. He was out there to sell marijuana in April 2009. The facts presented to a jury, we believe, would show that he was armed with a handgun," said prosecutor Frank Dahl.
Dahl says his heart goes out to Kim Vanderhaar. But the plea was the best way to insure that Stover got the maximum jail time.
Vanderhaar was noticeably absent from court. But later, with her spokesman by her side, condemned the plea deal.
"There's no closure, there's no closure. Camden didn't even get a chance to let a jury hear what happened," said Vanderhaar.
Stover's family was in court today. His stepfather asking Kim Vanderhaar for forgiveness. "The lady's in pain. I can't relieve her pain, only God can do that. I'm sorry that things like this happen and just ask to forgive our family," said Willie Hagan.
But Vanderhaar says it's hard to forgive when Stover has shown no sign of remorse. "I know that that may be something that God would call me to do, but after this I am not at a point of forgiveness for Stover."
Stover will be eligible for parole in about five years. Kim Vanderhaar says she will be there for his parole hearing and the one for co-defendant Jeffrey Moore, who agreed to an earlier plea deal. She wants to make sure both stay in prison for as long as possible.