A pre-trial hearing turned into a plea of guilt by Michael A. Schallert';s attorney Brian Trentman during court proceedings Friday morning.
Trentman said his client had signed the guilty plea to one count each of the murder of Kandis R. Majors, 28, and Terri Ann Seibeck, 31, who shared a home in West Frankfort.
Schallert';s attorney said his client understood that he would be sentenced to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Trentman said Schallert, 31, had been represented by four attorneys since his arrest on Oct. 21, 2009, in Windsor, Colo., after he and co-defendant Afton D. Ferris, 21, fled in a Chevrolet Impala belonging to one of the victims.
Trentman said he advised his client that he had nothing to lose if the case went to trial due to the abolishment of the death penalty by Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this year.
Franklin County State';s Attorney Evan Owens reviewed evidence in the state';s case against Ferris. He said had Schallert';s case gone to trial, he was prepared to call witnesses who had previously taken the witness stand during Ferris'; trial.
Reviewing evidence presented in the case, Owens referred to surveillance video that showed Schallert pumping fuel into the Impala before paying for the purchase with a credit card belonging to Majors.
He said a sniper watched as Schallert and Ferris removed items from a mobile home near Ft. Collins, Colo., and placed them in the Impala prior to their arrest.
Schallert and Ferris stole a gun belonging to friends who lived in West Frankfort before walking to the residence that Majors and Seibeck shared, Owens said.
An additional charge of theft of the firearm was dismissed pursuant to the defendant';s plea.
Circuit Court Judge Kyle Vantrease also dismissed charges of burglary and home invasion before sentencing Schallert to life behind bars.
He explained that Schallert had the right to appeal and would be given 30 days to file a written motion in court should he elect to change his plea.
Schallert read a statement to the victims'; families inside the courtroom saying he was sorry.
"Nothing I can say can bring Kandis and Terri back," Schallert said. "I completely deserve the punishment I received, and I hope this puts your mind at ease a little bit."
Outside the courtroom, Majors'; mother Cindy Marlow said she was relieved at the plea Schallert entered. She said his decision showed that he had some remorse.
Becky Carney, who was friends with the victims, said she was still angry.
Seibeck';s aunt, Carol Kesler, said Schallert was supposed to be her friend, adding that he and Ferris had stayed with her before going to live with Majors and Seibeck.
"If he would do that to my niece, who';s to say he wouldn';t have done the same thing to me?" Kesler said.
Majors and Seibeck kicked the co-defendants out of their home prior to their bodies being discovered on Oct. 18, 2009, after they could not be reached by telephone.
Kesler said the guilty verdict means the families could now begin the mourning process.
Owens said the state appreciated Schallert entering a guilty plea and expressed sympathy to the victims'; families.
He said the money spent on Ferris'; trial was well worth the outcome. A jury found Ferris guilty on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of burglary and two counts of home invasion.
Ferris will also spend the rest of her life in prison. Her attorneys Jerry Crisel and Matt Vaughn said they would file an appeal.
During Ferris'; sentencing hearing, Crisel was granted additional time to prepare the appeal given the volume of transcripts from the trial proceedings.