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Surprise Plea In Springfield Murder

Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 @ 5:01 PM
Updated: Thursday, July 22, 2010 @ 5:07 PM

A Springfield man is headed to prison after first denying that he killed a man, but then pleading guilty in the middle of this trial.

Willie Anderson was on trial in Clark County for the murder of Springfield businessman Jeff Ebner in 2008. Ebner was beaten to death inside his family business.

Attorneys said Anderson admitted his guilty after seeing the evidence against him.

When Anderson switched his plea to guilty, family members of the victim delivered powerful statements about how Jeff Ebner's death changed their lives forever.

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Anderson stood in the courtroom and showed no emotion.

The victim's wife, Amy Ebner, called for Anderson to get the maximum penalty allowed by law. The judge said the maximum would be 15 years to life in prison.

Later, Amy Ebner said it took a lot for the family to speak out.

"It was very hard, but I felt we have to have justice for Jeff," said Amy Ebner.

One very unique aspect of Anderson's case was that the suspect himself called 911 after the crime. Prosecutors said he had done it once before after a robbery in 2002.

"I don't know if it's, we have a criminal with a conscience or we have some type of psychopath here, but Mr. Anderson seems to repeat the same pattern," said Dan Driscoll, Assistant Clark County Prosecutor.

In those 911 calls, Anderson blamed someone else for the crimes. This was the first time he accepted responsibility for what he had done.

Anderson got 15 years to life in prison with no parole for the first 15 years.

Amy Ebner said, "There's not enough punishment in the world for him. But, at least I know that he's going to prison and got what he deserves."

The victim's sister, Ann Bailin, said her brother was a good man and a good father.

"Words cannot express the pain and anguish," Bailin said.

After being handcuffed and led from the courtroom, Anderson briefly broke down in tears on his way back to the county jail.