VINITA — A 21-year-old Craig County woman may spend the rest of her life in prison after she pleaded guilty in the beating death of an elderly Bluejacket woman.
Chelsea Marie Raulston, of Vinita, entered a blind plea in December 2016 to first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the August 2015 slaying of 84-year-old Velma Loretta Bennett, who was beaten with a pipe.
“I’m pleased for the family. They will at least be spared the trauma of a trial,” said Craig County District Attorney Matt Ballard.
A blind plea has no sentencing agreement with prosecutors; the sentencing is decided by the judge.
During the plea hearing, an assistant district attorney recommended two life sentences, “life without parole and a life sentence,” said Michelle Lowry, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
Sentencing is set for Feb. 3, records show.
Charlee Ray Adams, 24, of Bluejacket, is also charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in Bennett’s death.
Adams is undergoing a mental observation, records show.
Adams and Raulston were living on Bennett’s property in a travel trailer when the slaying occurred.
Raulston confessed to investigators “that after initially hitting Bennett with the pipe and after Bennett fell to the ground, she hit her multiple times,” an arrest affidavit states.
After assaulting the woman, the couple went inside Bennett’s residence and stole her purse, leaving with the pipe and purse, the affidavit states. Raulston told investigators she discarded the pipe and Adams confessed to tossing the purse alongside a road, the affidavit states.
In 2013, Raulston was given a three-year deferred sentence and fined $1,200 for unauthorized use of a vehicle and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
At the time of Raulston's arrest, Bennett's grandson, local country music performer Clint Walker, said his grandmother had given the couple a place to live on her property, but that they had "overstayed their welcome" and she was trying to get them to leave.