By Jean Cole
The second of three men accused in the kidnapping and beating of a Tanner couple pleaded guilty today in Limestone County Circuit Court and will serve a life sentence for his role in the crimes.
Mario Lamar Taylor, 20, of Athens, pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of second-degree kidnapping (Class B felonies that carry a 20-year state prison sentence); two counts of first-degree robbery (Class A felonies that carry life sentences); one count of first-degree burglary (a Class A felony that carries a life sentence); and one count of third-degree burglary (a Class C felony that carries a 10-year sentence). Two counts of second-degree assault were dismissed.
District Attorney Brian Jones and Taylor’s defense attorney reached the plea agreement.
Taylor was accused — along with Joshua Ray Cowan, 27, of Elkmont, and Damien Lamar Mitchell, 20, of Athens — in the attack on Shirley and Charlotte Haney in their south Limestone County home Oct. 12, 2010.
Cowan had once done repairs at the Haney home.
The Haneys, both 71 at the time, told investigators they were sleeping when two men wearing Halloween masks awakened them about 1 a.m. The men pulled the two out of their bed, beat them on their heads and faces and forced them into a farm office in the back yard. One of the men held a knife to Charlotte’s throat and threatened to kill the couple unless she opened the safe, investigators said.
Charlotte told the men she could not recall the combination, and was struck in the back of the head with a hard object each time she tried to speak, investigators said. Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said at the time of the suspects’ arrests the couple was pistol-whipped.
After shoving the couple into a bathroom and blocking the door with a desk, the suspects fled with at least $1,000 in cash and two handguns, authorities said.
Within 24 hours of the attack, Limestone County officers had arrested Taylor during a traffic stop, Mitchell at home and Cowan while he walked behind Bethlehem Church off Nuclear Plant Road. Investigators recovered two handguns and a shotgun, which had been hidden in the Clements community.
Sheriff’s Lt. Brad Curnutt said at the time of the arrests investigators believed Taylor drove the getaway car and dropped Cowan and Mitchell at Jones Cross Roads, where he later picked them up.
Cowan had already reached a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.
Mitchell’s trial is pending.