Court cases in two of Sanford’s higher-profile violent crimes from recent years ended this week with guilty pleas and jail time, the Rant has learned.
Donald McLaughlin pleaded guilty Wednesday in Lee County Superior Court to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He had been held since 2011, when he was charged by Sanford Police with shooting 21-year-old Anna Truelove and 30-year-old Christopher Plush and then burning their bodies in a car near the Warren Williams School off Hawkins Avenue.
Deion Johns, who was accused of shooting two teenagers during the 2016 Sanford Christmas Parade, pleaded guilty on Monday to assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. He received a sentence of seven to nine years in prison.
The unrelated crimes, separated by nearly six years, both attracted plenty of media attention in Sanford and beyond.
In McLaughlin’s case, a trial was first announced in 2014, three years after the killings. That trial was delayed more than a year later, when McLaughlin’s attorneys withdrew from his case. In January, prosecutors set another trial date for March, although it’s unclear why that date came and went without any court proceedings.
Charges are still pending against two men who had been accused of being accessories to the crime, William Horton and Damian McSwain.
Meanwhile, the Sanford Christmas Parade shooting generated headlines across the state and resulted in a “re-do” of the parade several days later. The attack near the intersection of Wicker and Gulf streets appeared to be the retaliatory in nature – one of Johns’ victims, Sean Matthews, has been connected by police to the 2016 robbery and death of his younger brother Trevon. Johns’ father told WNCN in December that he “just snapped” following his brother’s killing. Matthews’ injuries at the time were considered very serious. A second teenager suffered only minor injuries.
Charges against Matthews – which include attempted common law robbery, felony conspiracy, and assault – are still pending.