GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A convicted killer added 26 years to his sentence after taking a surprise plea deal on Tuesday.
Danny Hembree pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and in exchange, prosecutors dropped a third murder charge.
The third case is a murder that happened in 1992. The D.A. said there's no evidence connecting Hembree to that case, so he made the deal with Hembree Tuesday, hoping he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hembree put his hands on a Bible to affirm his guilt.
“Are you in fact guilty?” a judge said.
“Yes I am,” Hembree said.
Hembree, who is already on death row for the murder of Heather Catterton, was preparing for a retrial in the murder of Randi Saldana.
The first trial ended in a mistrial and a fiery confrontation with Saldana's sister.
On Tuesday, a subdued Shellie Nations faced the man who now admits to killing her sister and burning her body.
“She was my only sister. Danny, she was my best friend,” Nations said.
She cried and had to sit down to continue.
“You are a true monster. A real murderer,” she said.
She said she forgives Hembree because she believes he'll have to answer to God.
“And it's not going to be like standing before a jury or a judge, and there is no mistrials in heaven,” Nations said.
Hembee said nothing in court Tuesday.
He is appealing his conviction in the Catterton murder that sent him to death row, but his plea to second-degree murder Tuesday means even if he won an appeal, the 51-year-old would still have to serve 26 years in prison.
“We have assured the people of Gaston County that Danny Hembree will die in prison,” said District Attorney Locke Bell.
Hembree's attorney said he went to Nations and passed on one message for Hembree: "I am sorry for your loss." She said it is not the apology she was looking for.