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Man takes plea deal in Las Vegas cold-case murder

A man prosecutors say was linked to a nearly 35-year-old murder case has pleaded guilty.

More than five years ago, authorities said DNA evidence linked Willie Lee Shannon to the kidnapping and slaying of 18-year-old Jamey Walker. He was arrested in 2010.

Shannon, 64, accepted an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and face 15 years in prison to avoid the death penalty.

The deal was drawn up under what’s known as an Alford plea, which means Shannon would not admit guilt, but acknowledge that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. He is to be sentenced in March.

“There’s no way he’s going to admit anything,” Shannon’s lawyer, Mace Yampolsky, said. “There is no way this deal would have gone down if he had to.”

Walker died of a massive skull fracture after falling almost 50 feet. Her body was discovered Mother’s Day, May 10, 1981, under a bridge at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

As Shannon’s plea fell under law at the time of Walker’s death, he would receive credit for his five years in custody and would be eligible for parole soon after his sentence, Yampolsky said.

At the time Walker’s body was found, police speculated she died while trying to escape from attackers, according to Review-Journal articles.

The day before her body was found, her father, James Walker, received an early morning telephone call demanding $75,000 for his daughter’s safe return.

Police said the Walkers were having trouble obtaining money for her release because banks were not open on the weekend. Jamey Walker was the daughter of the late Eleanor Walker, a past president of the local chapter of the NAACP. Her grandmother was Sarann Knight Preddy, who ran unsuccessfully for Las Vegas City Council in 1979.

Shannon’s arrest report says Jamey Walker might have been an unintended target in the kidnapping.

Police later said a jailhouse informant reported that Shannon, while serving time in the Nevada State Prison in 1986 and 1987, confessed to the killing. But the informant has since recanted.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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