One defendant sentenced, second defendant pleads guilty in Verbena murder

Published 4:33 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The case surrounding a 2009 murder in Verbena took a significant step toward conclusion.

Joshua David Ready was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for the killing of Steven Dorough, and co-defendant Christopher Kroeger admitted to Judge Ben Fuller his role in the crime.

Ready, 18 at the time of the incident, and Kroeger, 21 at the time, were arrested in December 2009, accused of killing 18-year-old Dorough and then burning his body to conceal the crime.

Ready and his legal representation reached a plea agreement with prosecutors before Wednesday’s hearing, and Kroeger’s admission brought to light details of the crime.

Kroeger told Fuller that he shot Dorough, Deputy District Attorney C.J. Robinson said. Authorities already determined that Ready played an active role in trying to cover up the crime.

Kroeger’s plea deal calls for 35 years in prison, Robinson said.

The victim’s father and stepmother spoke at the sentencing, and Ready also spoke, apologizing to Dorough’s family, Robinson said.

“We were very pleased with the result,” said Robinson who prosecuted the case along with fellow Deputy DA Jessica Sanders. “I know nothing can ever bring back Steven Dorough and his life and what it mean, but hopefully this is a chapter we can soon close and allow the family to continue healing.”

Kroeger will appear before Fuller again on Feb. 8, 2012, for sentencing.

Also sentenced by Fuller on Wednesday were Steven Lawayne Mitchell and Michael Wayne Merrell.

Mitchell was sentenced on two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of sodomy second degree for crimes committed against a 13-year-old.

His sentence was for 30 years in prison.

Merrell was sentenced on attempted arson second degree, four counts of rape second degree, two counts of sodomy second degree and one count of incest.

The sex crimes were committed against a girl who was 9 at the time of the first incident.

Merrell’s sentence translated to 30 years in prison.

Mitchell and Merrell were prosecuted by Robinson and Assistant District Attorney Brandon Bates. Assistant DA Casey Biggs also helped prosecute Mitchell.