Editor's note: This caption in the photo with this story was updated at 10:43 a.m. Thursday to state that Derek Garten was not the father of Margaret "Meg" Smith's son.
A Midway man has been released from custody after pleading guilty to driving a man to the scene of a fatal shooting and then driving him to dispose of the alleged murder weapon.
Billy Jo Turner, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges in the case. He had been in custody since a July 3, 2018, shooting on Meadow Glen Drive that left 39-year-old Margaret “Meg” Smith dead. Turner pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation of murder, a Class D felony; criminal facilitation of tampering with physical evidence, a Class A misdemeanor; and criminal facilitation of violation of Kentucky EPO/DVO, a Class B misdemeanor.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 18.
As part of his plea agreement, Turner is expected to testify against his co-defendant and the suspected gunman, 39-year-old Derek Garten. In the meantime, Turner will be released from custody and closely monitored.
Turner’s defense attorney, Ted Shouse, made the case that Turner had already served 13 months of the five-year sentence he faces on the revised charges, which would make him parole eligible. Shouse also said that Turner would be living with family members, wearing a monitoring device and be employed full time.
“He has a job waiting for him, and it’s the same construction company he’s worked for for eight years,” Shouse said. “… It’ll give him the opportunity to reintegrate back into the community … . He can go back to work, help his family and be productive.”
Commonwealth’s attorney Larry Cleveland said his initial position was that Turner should remain in custody until sentencing. However, he conceded that Turner would be parole eligible.
“Based upon the evidence in this case, there was a substantial issue as to criminal intent on the part of (Turner),” Cleveland said, noting that Turner would cooperate with the prosecution. “… He’s given police his statement. We would expect him to testify consistently to that statement at trial.”
Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate agreed to release Turner contingent on his wearing an ankle monitor and testifying truthfully at trial.
Turner had faced a capital felony charge of complicity to murder, which carried a life sentence. He has now admitted to driving Garten to the home of Smith in the moments before her death and then driving Garten to an undisclosed location to dispose of the alleged murder weapon.
Garten then disappeared for several days as a manhunt ensued, although Turner was arrested the day of Smith’s death. She had numerous protective orders against Garten, including one filed just a month before a family member discovered her body inside her Meadow Glen Drive home.
While at large, Garten posted comments to his social media account, including what appeared to be a confession to the crime.
“I shot meg and would do it again,” the message on Garten’s social media account read. “She was evil. She was hurting my son. She abused the position she was trusted with and she hurt my son … I sent her back to hell where she needs to stay.”
He was eventually arrested after a standoff at a Lexington motel.