ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (AP) — Angola 5 defendant David D. Mathis has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a deal that spares him a possible death sentence for the 1999 slaying of a Louisiana State Penitentiary security officer.

The Advocate reports (Http:// the 36-year-old Mathis entered the plea before Judge Jerome Winsberg Friday.

Mathis was among a group of Angola Camp D inmates whose botched escape plan resulted in the beating and stabbing death of Capt. David C. Knapps in a restroom of the camp's Education Building.

Winsberg immediately sentenced Mathis on Friday to a life sentence without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence and ordered that it be served "consecutively to any other sentence you are serving."

The would-be escapees also held two other officers as hostages until Angola's riot control team rescued them. Officers storming the Education Building found Mathis and inmate Joel Durham holding one of the hostages in an inmate property storage room.

The entry team killed Durham, 26, and shot Mathis in the face.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick took over prosecution of the case, which had languished without formal indictments until Sam D'Aquilla became the district attorney for East and West Feliciana parishes in 2003.

D'Aquilla cannot prosecute the case himself because he briefly represented one of the defendants while serving as a public defense attorney.

Christine Gauf, one of Knapps' sisters, said Connick made the decision to allow Mathis to plead guilty.

"They didn't know if they could push it to the death penalty. We don't think he should have got off, but there's nothing we can do," Gauf said after court adjourned Friday.

The Jefferson Parish prosecution team, headed by Tommy Block, has obtained three convictions and two death sentences against the Angola 5 since May 2011.

Juries, which have been chosen in St. Tammany Parish, returned death sentences against Jeffrey Clark, 52, and David Brown, 39, while Robert G. Carley, 44, received a second life sentence when his jury had at least one holdout opposed to the death penalty.

"We believe we could have proven the (Mathis) case," Block said after court.

The remaining Angola 5 defendant, Barry Edge, 52, is scheduled for trial in January.


Information from: The Advocate,