GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two Gulfport teens pleaded guilty Friday to the roles they played in the murder of 15-year-old Joshua Xavier Cuellar on Oct. 22, 2013.
District Attorney Joel Smith said Damon Demond Clark, 17, pleaded guilty to second degree murder, Deaundre Deshad Holmes, 17, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder.
Another co-defendant in the case, Earnest Pope, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder in August. Smith said Pope's sentencing date will be the same as Clark and Holmes.
Judge Christopher Schmidt accepted the pleas of Clark and Holmes and deferred sentencing pending the trial of a fourth defendant, Sellers Johnson. Johnson, 19, is charged with capital murder.
Smith said Clark, Holmes and Pope will remain in jail until their sentencing hearings.
The murder of Cuellar shocked the entire Gulfport community. Family members said the teen was found shot in the head and chest on Lowes Avenue, about a mile from where he lived. He was rushed to the hospital, but died about 30 minutes later.
Smith said at Friday's plea hearing, Clark and Holmes told the court their versions of what happened that night. Both said Cuellar was giving all four defendants a ride to Lowes in the back of his truck.
The teens testified Johnson gave Clark a gun to rob Cuellar while they were getting out of the back of the truck.
"Clark stated that the gun was not loaded. Both Clark and Holmes stated that once Clark pulled the gun, Cuellar knocked the gun out of Clark's hands and the two began fighting," said Assistant District Attorney Crosby Parker.
The teens told the court that when the fighting ended, Johnson picked up the gun, walked towards Cuellar and started shooting. Clark and Holmes said they ran from the scene when the shots rang out.
Smith said Holmes and Pope, who were 15-years-old at the time of the shooting, face up to 20 years in prison for their roles in the murder. Clark, who was also 15, faces a sentence of 20 to 40 years.
If convicted, Johnson, who was 17 at the time, faces life in prison. A Supreme Court ruling prohibits the death penalty for defendants who are under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
Smith said Johnson's trial is set for Oct. 12, 2015, and Clark, Holmes and Pope are all expected to testify.