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NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A central Kentucky woman entered a
conditional guilty plea Monday to four counts of murder in a crash that killed three children and one adult who were riding in her van.
Melissa Helton, 42, of Nicholasville also pleaded guilty to wanton endangerment and driving under the influence in Jessamine Circuit Court on the day her trial was scheduled to begin.
Under terms of the plea agreement, she would receive 24 years in
prison on each of the murder counts, five years for first-degree wanton endangerment and 30 days for driving under the influence.
All the counts would be served concurrently.
Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Lockridge said Helton would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years.
Helton reserved the right to file an appeal on the claim that her blood was drawn without a search warrant, defense attorney Ed Dove told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The minivan in which Helton was driving the children home from a
swimming outing in August 2006 ran off a road, struck a tree and burst into flames.
The crash killed Helton's 12-year-old son Nicholas as well as 10-year-old Emily Ann Preston and 11-year-old Caleb Hilenbrandt.
Lori Latham, a friend of Helton's, died three months later from injuries suffered in the crash.
Helton and her daughter, Madison, survived the crash.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)