Shaun Dillard pleaded guilty aiding, abetting murder

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, July 24, 2008

One half of the case involving the death of 12 year-old Ashley Andrews in October of 2005 found some closure when the stepfather, Shaun Dillard, entered a guilty plea to one of four charges against him.

Less than two months after Hurricane Katrina, Pearl River County residents still trying to recover from the trauma of the massive storm heard the news of the brutal death of Ashley Andrews. The young girl was physically and sexually abused before she was strangled to death. That abuse and murder is alleged to have been at the hands of her mother and stepfather.

Both the mother, Christina Dillard, and the stepfather, Shaun Dillard, were charged with various crimes related to the incident. Shaun Dillard was charged with capital murder, statutory rape and two counts of sexual battery. Wednesday he entered a guilty plea to aiding and abetting capital murder.

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The other three charges were declared nolle prosequi by the prosecution since Shaun Dillard pleaded guilty to the aiding and abetting charge.

Before the plea was entered Assistant District Attorney Monya Creel Bryan asked Shaun Dillard if he had ever witnessed Christina Dillard choke Andrews. Shaun Dillard said he had.

Before Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell would hear Shaun Dillard make his plea, he repeatedly asked the girl’s stepfather if he was entering the plea of his own free will, if he had the mental capacity to do so and if he understood his rights. After Harrell had made sure that Shaun Dillard was of sound mind and that he understood his rights, the judge heard his plea. Dillard pleaded guilty to the charge of aiding and abetting the capital murder of Ashley Andrews.

Dillard, now 29, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Harrell that same day.

After the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Monya Creel Bryan read the evidence that would have been presented to a jury had the case gone to trial. The evidence covered the story of the abuse Andrews endured in her last days and her cause of death as stated in the autopsy report. The report states that Andrews died as a result of manual strangulation.

Shaun Dillard will stay in Pearl River County until the end of this Circuit Court term to assist in the trial against Christina Dillard.

Court dates for Christina Dillard still have to be set, and District Attorney Hal Kittrell expects the case to be tried outside of this county.