Billy Jo McLean will spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty Thursday in Lee County Superior Court to killing his wife and stepdaughter in July 2015, the Rant has learned.
McLean’s case captured attention across the state and nation in 2015, after firefighters put out a small fire at the family’s Sanford apartment and found his wife, Calandra McLean, and 13-year-old stepdaughter, Tashonna Cameron, dead inside.
Missing were McLean and his stepson, Tobias. He was 17 at the time.
The discovery sparked a manhunt and McLean was captured four days later in Oldham County, Texas after Tobias was apparently able to access Facebook and called authorities after learning of his mother and sister’s deaths. WRAL reported later that McLean had allegedly strangled his victims and bound his wife’s mouth and hands with duct tape before lighting the apartment on fire.
In what was described by witnesses as an emotional scene, McLean was given two consecutive life sentences following his plea, which apparently allowed him to avoid the death penalty. Reports indicated that McLean himself gave a statement to the court, and also that his mother in law spoke and said she had forgiven him. Tobias McLean, who has since spoken to the media about his ordeal, was also apparently present.
The plea could be seen as something of a surprise, given recent developments in the case. In May, a judge refused to accept a guilty plea from McLean and ordered that he undergo a mental evaluation. The following day, McLean was committed to Central Regional Hospital in Butner.
In the motion to commit, Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist wrote that McLean had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had taken “a number of psychiatric medications” since his arrest.
“Defendant makes rambling statements on the record at court proceedings,” Gilchrist wrote. “He is charged with two counts of first degree murder by burning his alleged victims and of kidnapping a juvenile.”
McLean was represented by Steve Friedman and Robert Singagliese of Durham. Lee County Assistant District Attorney Ray Pleasant prosecuted.