After nearly four decades, Marion County residents finally received some answers they have been waiting for.
Everyone came to the Marion County Courthouse on Thursday preparing for day four of testimonies, but they experienced just the opposite.
Eddie Jack Washington has cut his trial short by entering an Alford plea on three counts of conspiracy to commit a felony. The charges are in connection with a 1974 triple homicide at Windmill Park in Fairmont.
Washington was facing three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Guy Phillips, Wanda Phillips, and Billy Cobb.
With the Alford plea, Washington does not admit guilt, but admits the prosecution could likely prove the charge.
The defense said he entered the plea to avoid the three murder charges the jury could have convicted him of.
"You never know what a jury is going to do. You never know," said Neal Hamilton, Washington's attorney. "When you're looking at taking a couple of years or a year of your life rather then life in prison, what would your decision be?"
It has been 39 years in the making and it all boiled down to one week and one trial.
The court heard from several witnesses over the past few days. It would have continued into the weekend, but Washington decided to enter the plea agreement.
"Mr. Washington made a decision to enter a plea that at least indicates that he will have some responsibility in the deaths of these three people," said Patrick Wilson, Marion County Prosecuting Attorney.
The state presented evidence to the court on why the plea agreement was necessary.
Wilson told Judge Aloi there has been an extensive investigation beginning the morning of the murders on August 2, 1974 until that very moment. He said as the investigation unfolded, the state has come to believe Phillip Bush had a weapon and he shot three people with it.
Bush is serving life sentences at Mount Olive Correctional Complex for two first-degree murder convictions in Ohio County.
Wilson said due to Washington's 1978 confession to the West Virginia State Police, Washington was present when the shooting happened. Wilson said Washington was aware of what was happening and used his own vehicle to get Bush and himself to and from the scene.
Judge Aloi said he could significantly say the jury would have found Washington guilty on the three conspiracy charges.
Washington waived his right to be indicted by a grand jury on the new charges.
Hamilton told Judge Aloi that his client didn't agree to the chance of life in prison. He said Washington is willing to put an end to all of this and bring closure to himself and the families.
Hamilton told the court he "doesn't believe the case is truly solved" and Washington just went into the plea agreement to avoid a higher sentence.
Hamilton said he wishes he had an opportunity to present his case to the jury.
"I do believe we would have had a very good outcome however you have to understand that you never know what a jury is going to do," Hamilton said.
Before his sentencing, Judge Aloi asked him if there was anything he would like to say.
He bent down to speak into the microphone and said, "I would like to apologize to the family. I didn't have nothing to do with it."
Judge Aloi sentenced him to one to five years in prison on each count of conspiracy to commit a felony. Two of the terms will run consecutively, with the third running concurrently. Washington will get credit for the time he has already served.
"To a large extent he felt relief, I would think at that point. The plea was one where he did not admit guilt. He was no longer facing a long prison sentence. I think it provided some closure for him as well as the state," said Neal Hamilton, Washington's attorney.
Families and friends of the victims never got a proper closure until now.
The accused shooter, Bush, is still awaiting his trial on three first degree murder charges.
"The families indicated to me that in part it's some closure to them. As you probably saw, a lot of family members have been in the courtroom listening to the testimony over the past three and four days. Hopefully it will do that. It will give them some closure but as I said, we still have another case pending," Wilson said.
For past stories on the Eddie Washington trial, click on the link.