By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
The man charged with shooting a Causey rancher in 2005 as part of a murder-for-hire drug deal has pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence, avoiding the death penalty.
Rogers native Donald Scott Taylor, 29, entered the plea to federal charges in Albuquerque Friday. The nine charges against him include shooting Jimmy “Bo” Chunn as part of an agreement to obtain anhydrous ammonia — a chemical used to manufacture methamphetamine — for what authorities call the race-based criminal group Aryan Brotherhood.
The remaining charges deal with conspiring to manufacture meth and breaking firearm possession laws.
As part of the plea deal, Taylor will not face the death sentence and waives his right to appeals. There is no parole for a life sentence in the federal prison system.
Roosevelt County farmer William “Billy Joe” Watson, 44, is accused of agreeing to provide the anhydrous ammonia in exchange for Taylor killing Chunn, 71.
Prosecutors said on July 4, 2005, Taylor knelt down in the driveway of Chunn’s residence and using a .30-.30 rifle shot Chunn, who was seated in a chair in his living room.
Taylor returned to Chunn’s house three days later. Prosecutors said Taylor found Chunn was dead but had not yet been discovered and Taylor stole Chunn’s wallet as well as money and several firearms.
Chunn’s daughter, Karen Chandler, said the family was grateful Taylor’s case was over and they didn’t have to endure a two-month trial in Albuquerque.
“We’ve lived with this for 4 1/2 years now — it’s time we got some peace for a change,” she said.
Taylor’s sentencing, which will impose the life sentence and give Chunn’s family a chance to speak, is scheduled for Oct. 30.
Taylor’s attorney, Brian Pori of Albuquerque, said he thinks the plea deal is fair.
“I think it shows Donald’s willing to take responsibility for what he did,” Pori said. “It saves the family from having to endure the ordeal of a trial. And I think it’s a very just and severe punishment because he’ll spend the rest of his natural life in jail.”
In the plea agreement, Taylor admits killing Chunn to fulfill his part in a deal to obtain anhydrous ammonia, also used as agricultural fertilizer.
Taylor says in the document he “met with a person whom I believed, because of his occupation, would likely have access to anhydrous ammonia,” and that person said he could get the chemical and wanted Chunn to “turn up missing.”
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler, who was appointed as a special U. S. Attorney to assist in Taylor’s case and with state and local charges against Watson, said Taylor’s confession will affect the continuing prosecution against Watson.
Chandler said he hopes to have Watson’s case resolved by or before early next year.
Chandler called Taylor’s plea agreement “a just sentence for a very heinous act.”