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Ragland man pleads guilty to hanging death of half-sister

PELL CITY - A Ragland man pleaded guilty this morning to the 2012 hanging of his 9-year-old half-sister.

John Dillion Salers, 18, appeared before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Bill Weathington this morning. Salers pleaded guilty to murder in the hanging death of his half-sister, Katelynn Arnold.

St. Clair County Assistant District Attorney Gwendolyn Connelly said evidence would have shown that Salers caused Arnold’s death by hanging her with a rope outside their home.

St. Clair County Chief Assistant District Attorney Lamar Williamson said the two children lived with their aunt and uncle in Ragland at the time of the murder, which occurred on May 10, 2012.

Salers was 14 at the time, and he was charged as an adult.

Judge Weathington told Salers this morning that, by entering a plea of guilty, he was waiving his right to both a trial and appeal.

Weathington asked Salers if he was pleading guilty because, in fact, he was guilty.

“I’m just ready to get it all over with, judge,” Salers said.

“Does that mean you’re guilty?”

“Yes, judge.”

In accordance with a plea agreement reached with state prosecutors, a capital murder charge against Salers was dropped, and he pleaded guilty to simple murder, a Class A felony.  

Salers also waived a pre-sentencing hearing, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with credit for time he has already served in the St. Clair County Jail. He must also reimburse the state for court costs.

Salers did not want to make any statement before the judge sentenced him.

“I appreciate the District Attorney’s Office working out a resolution to this case,” said Pell City attorney Lyle Harmon, who represented Salers. “This family has lost two children because of this tragic event.”