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Straughter pleads guilty to murder in Rand shooting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Rand man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday in the shooting death of a lifelong friend in February.

Moments before his trial was set to begin, Tremale Leon Straughter, 29, admitted to shooting Harold Donovan "Don Don" Taylor at least 25 times with an AK-47.

Straughter faces life in prison on the murder charge when he is sentenced Jan. 10. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to speak at Straughter's sentencing as to whether he should be eligible for parole. Prosecutors also dropped three charges of wanton endangerment against him.

Taylor, who was 29 when he died, was found Feb. 14 in his car, which had crashed into a fence in the 5300 block of Emory Avenue in Rand.

On Monday, Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Dan Holstein told Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey that the same type of bullets at the crime scene were found in Straughter's apartment. Straughter also was covered in gunshot residue, Holstein said.

As part of the plea deal, the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed not to charge Straughter with being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Holstein. Straughter served four years in federal prison on crack cocaine charges.

Ed ReBrook, Straughter's attorney, told the judge he believed prosecutors "could've obtained a conviction for first-degree murder" based on the evidence against his client. He said Straughter had been drinking the night of the murder.

Witnesses told police that Straughter shot Taylor several times. Straughter then got in his car, circled the block, got out and shot Taylor some more, according to witnesses.

The two were heavily involved in the illegal drug trade, according to police.

Holstein said the two had been fighting over money and that Straughter told Taylor, "Well, this is all I've got for you," before he started shooting.

Bailey said Monday that prosecutors provided a list of 32 witnesses to testify against Straughter.

"The defendant's former girlfriend would've testified she bought him an AK-47 at the Trading Post in Marmet," Holstein said.

In July, Straughter's brother, Tremain Deon Straughter, 32, of Charleston, was charged with stalking and intimidating a witness to Taylor's murder. He remains in the South Central Regional Jail.

In 2001, Charleston police charged Taylor, Tremain Straughter and Straughter's cousin, Antwuan LeVar Crowder, with first-degree murder for allegedly robbing and killing Gary "Gino" McGee, 21.

Tremain Straughter and Crowder were later acquitted in separate trials. They implicated each other in the case. Taylor, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery. Taylor earned parole because of time served and spent about a year behind bars.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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