VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A man charged as one of four co-defendants in the murder of Dwayne French has accepted a plea deal and changed his plea to guilty.
Richard Durbin was initially facing a charge of murder related to the 2020 death of French in Vigo County. His co-defendant Candace Jones recently was sentenced to 20 years for her role in the incident.
During Thursday’s change of plea hearing in Vigo County Superior Court III, Judge Sarah Mullican accepted Durbin’s guilty plea to the level 3 felony charge of “aiding in robbery”.
When asked about why a plea deal dropping the more serious charges was allowed for Durbin, Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said the evidence showed Durbin was involved, but not quite directly.
“The evidence in this investigation showed that Mr. Durbin was the driver of the vehicle involved in the robbery. The investigation and independent witnesses provided evidence showing Mr. Durbin never left the vehicle, did not directly participate in the robbery, nor was he involved in providing or using any of the weapons involved in the robbery,” Modesitt said. “For his involvement as the car driver in the robbery that resulted in the death of Dwayne French, Mr. Durbin is facing up to sixteen (16) years in prison.”
Durbin’s representation asked for, and was granted, time to prepare for sentencing rather than have the sentence handed down as part of the hearing. Judge Mullican scheduled a sentencing hearing for Durbin for 9 a.m. on January 5, 2024.
During the sentencing, both the defense and prosecution will be allowed to make arguments for their desired sentencing outcomes.
Following Durbin and Jones’ guilty pleas, Dwight Brown and Jesse James Hess are left as the remaining co-defendants in the French murder case. Dwight Brown was initially scheduled for a change of plea hearing as well on Thursday, but has had that extended until next week. Brown’s change of plea hearing is now scheduled for October 5 before Judge Michael Lewis.
Jesse James Hess’s jury trial remains scheduled for March 4, 2024.