A guilty plea from a Grundy County man charged in the 2008 slaying of his brother-in-law netted him a 40-year prison sentence.
Shawn Ray Landolt, 30, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Grundy resident Jeremy Michael Meeks, according to court records. Landolt originally was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain said the sentence, handed down recently by Circuit Court Judge J. Curtis Smith, is the result of an agreement with Landolt that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser offenses that would have been considered by a jury in a first-degree murder trial.
"Had he been convicted at trial of first-degree [murder], he would have to serve 51 calendar years before he could be considered for parole," Strain said. "If he was convicted of second-degree, the range would be 15 to 25."
By avoiding trial, Landolt will be eligible to seek parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence, or about 34 years, Strain said.
The sentence was acceptable to the Meeks family, he said.
"I wouldn't say the family was ecstatically happy about it," Strain said, "but the family was on board and we would not have done this without their approval."
There is no appeal of the conviction in a plea, he said, "and I think that was part of the consideration for the family."
Landolt was arrested at a Chattanooga motel on June 12, 2008, the day Meeks' body was found in the smoldering ruins of his home on Shadrick Hill Road near Tracy City.
The same day, Grundy County Sheriff Brent Myers said Landolt and Meeks had had "some kind of altercation downtown" in Tracy City.
Grundy County authorities said at the time that Meeks' body was found on a bed in the rear of the home with a hole that measured one inch by two inches in his chest.
State fire officials testified in a 2008 court hearing that a .30-30 rifle was found about four feet away from Meeks' feet and a spent shell casing was discovered under his body.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...