Tribune-Courier General Manager
Chris Wilcox contributed to this story.
Once facing life in prison on a charge of wanton murder, Cory Burkeen could be free in as little as 7 1/2 years following a plea agreement resulting from a mediation session last week.
Marshall County Circuit Judge Dennis Foust said Burkeen pleaded guilty to charges of second degree manslaughter, first degree assault and two counts of wanton endangerment after a five-hour session attended by Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship and James Burkeen, attorney for Burkeen, along with victims and their families.
Former Calloway Circuit Judge David Buckingham served as mediator for the session.
Foust had encouraged attorneys during a July 30 hearing to engage in mediation if there was hope of finding common ground. He said he is in favor of the process of mediation because it gives everyone involved the opportunity to know what could happen in a case if it goes to trial.
“Through mediation you get the certainty of a result that is acceptable to everyone. The victims have a voice and in some cases the defendant can come up with recommendations on a fair outcome,” said Foust.
Burkeen’s plea carries a sentence of 10 years for manslaughter and assault charges and five years each for two counts of wanton endangerment to run concurrent. The sentence carries a requirement that 85 percent be served. Foust said with credit for time already served Burkeen could trim about a year off of the 8 1/2 year sentence.
As part of last week’s plea agreement Burkeen also plead guilty to second degree burglary in an unrelated incident. Foust said Burkeen won’t be sentenced for that incident until after he completes jail time for the manslaughter conviction.
Foust said when Burkeen gets out of jail for the manslaughter charge he will face more jail time, which should provide an added incentive for rehabilitation.
Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship said he believes mediation efforts led to a just outcome.
“You’d think a case like this would be about years, but it’s really about parole eligibility,” he said. “When both sides leave the mediation process a little unhappy, that’s a good sign of mediation.
Police say Burkeen’s vehicle struck one being driven by Lake McGregor on Memorial Day 2012, injuring passengers, Landon Lovett, Maggie Adams and Shane McKenty. Lovett’s injuries eventually claimed her life in November 2012. McKenty also suffered serious injuries.
Toxicology reports revealed Burkeen had Valium and Klonopin in his system at the time of the crash.
Foust has set sentencing for Sept. 16 in Marshall County Circuit Court.