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September 20, 2018

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Mississippi man seeks to plead guilty in 5 Alabama slayings

Updated Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 | 8:51 a.m.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A Mississippi man charged with using an ax and a rifle to kill five people in rural Alabama wants to plead guilty in the slayings, court records show.

Derrick Dearman, 29, of Lucedale, Mississippi, signed a document last week saying he plans to plead guilty in the killings that occurred two years ago near Citronelle.

The town is located in southwest Alabama about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Mobile.

A trial would still have to be held under state law because the man plans to plead guilty to capital murder, which carries a potential death penalty.

Dearman is accused of killing the five people at a home where his estranged girlfriend was staying. Dearman has told reporters he was high on methamphetamine at the time.

"Drugs (were) making me think things that's not really there," Dearman told news outlets after his arrest.

Records show Dearman, acting as his own lawyer, plans to plead guilty in the slayings of Robert Lee Brown, 26; Chelsea Marie Reed, 22; Justin Kaleb Reed, 23; Joseph Adam Turner, 26; and Shannon Melissa Randall, 35.

Chelsea Reed was about five months pregnant when she was killed; Justin Reed was her husband. Turner and Randall also were married.

Turner was the brother of Dearman's estranged girlfriend Laneta Lester, who authorities said had sought refuge from an abusive Dearman at the isolated home where the five were killed.

Dearman originally was charged with abducting Lester and child from the home following the killings, but records show prosecutors dismissed those charges in anticipation of him pleading guilty to the more serious charges.

A motion filed by Dearman's former attorney shows that a mental examination found Dearman competent to plead guilty but incompetent to stand trial or make decisions about the possible death penalty since he was suicidal and had mental problems.