From staff reports
IRWINTON — A Wilkinson County murder trial came to a swift end Wednesday with a plea deal. The 24-year-old defendant, Zachary Allen Beck, pleaded guilty to murder and armed robbery.
Beck received a life sentence.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright said the state was prepared for a long trial, but believes all parties are at peace.
Beck was on trial for killing 54-year-old Ronnie Willis Rozier on Jan. 6, 2011. He robbed and shot the victim at his home off Parker Springs Church Road in the northern part of Wilkinson County.
Bright said Rozier was known to loan out money. Beck owed him $60.
The defendant came to the Rozier residence wanting to borrow more money. Defense council admitted Beck was addicted to painkiller medication.
According to evidence, Beck shot the victim when he refused.
In recorded statements to GBI investigators, he admitted to the murder.
After signing the plea deal, Beck addressed the Rozier family and apologized for what he did.
The murder trial began Tuesday following several delays.
The trial was postponed at the request of the defense last October and again last month due to the illness of lead defense attorney Ricky Morris.
Jury selection was completed prior to the delay in December.
It was scheduled to resume Monday, but was postponed after an unforeseen accident involving Morris' wife. She was rushed to the hospital to undergo orthopedic surgery.
Proceedings began Tuesday with Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Brent Cochran's opening statements at 9 a.m. in Wilkinson County Superior Court.
Bright said the prosecution called up eight witnesses Tuesday. Tracey Rozier, the victim's widow, was the first.
She described the emotions of coming home to her husband lying in a pool of blood.
According to the evidence, Beck used a stolen .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to shoot Rozier. The murder weapon was discovered just beyond the county line into Baldwin County.
There were five shell casings and bullets found. Everything matched to the defendant's gun, according to Bright.
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