Angel Cassa, 21, pled guilty in the death of former Murray State College professor Jane Ballard and was sentenced to two 35-year sentences, which will run concurrently. Cassa entered into plea bargain on the charges of 2nd degree murder and 1st degree arson Friday.
Cassa is one of three people charged in the murder of Ballard, which took place March 5, 2012 at her home just outside of Tishomingo. James Ervin Baker, 44, and Roy Curtis Zornes, Jr., 26, were also charged in the incident.
On March 22, 2011, charges of murder, rape and arson against Baker were dismissed without prejudice, which would allow the state to bring charges at a later date. Zornes, who faced the same charges, has been released from incarceration as he was found to be incompetent to stand trial due to mental retardation. He is currently under the supervision of the public guardian of Oklahoma.
"I felt, given the circumstances with the other two defendants, the plea was a way to ensure someone was held accountable for Ms. Ballard's death," Paule Wise, Johnson County District Attorney, said.
Wise said Cassa will be not be eligible to apply for parole under the current system until she has served 85 percent of her sentence.
"I think the family was able to experience some closure," Wise said. "But questions still remain, since Cassa implicated both James Baker and Roy Curtis Zornes, whether we will be able to reopen the case at a later date. I met with OSBI on Friday after the plea and the investigation is still open. As of today, the decision is still pending."
Cassa was also directed to pay the costs of her incarceration in Johnston County and restitution for Ballard's funeral expenses. She has been credited with time served.