More than seven and a half years after the killing of a senior citizen in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the third defendant in the case changed his plea Friday.
Keith Baird pled no contest to burglary and kidnapping charges related to the September, 2010 shooting death of Mary “Pat” O’Hagan.
O’Hagan, 78, had retired from Chelmsford, Massachusetts to quiet Sheffield with her late husband. The grandmother became popular in the community, and was an active volunteer.
Investigators said Baird, along with his half-brother Richard Fletcher and a buddy, Michael Norrie, got high and broke into O’Hagan’s home looking to steal prescription medications and money.
Norrie already pled guilty to murder for shooting O’Hagan during the break-in, and is serving more than 20 years in prison.
Fletcher previously pled guilty to kidnapping and burglary and is awaiting sentencing.
Baird’s new plea deal on the burglary and kidnapping charges calls for a sentence of 15 to 30 years, with credit for time served.
However, that punishment isn’t enough for O’Hagan’s children, given Baird’s lengthy criminal record and their view that the three men shared responsibility equally for crafting the ill-fated plot that turned violent.
“To walk out with what he walked out with—it’s terrible,” said Mark O’Hagan of Bolton, Massachusetts. “It’s a tragedy.”
“I’m not happy,” added Shawn O’Hagan of Manchester, New Hampshire. “I feel we let my mother down. I can’t fathom it right now.”
In addition to the no contest pleas on the burglary and kidnapping charges, Baird also pled guilty to several violations of his conditions of release.
Sentences on those convictions will be served concurrently with the others, under the plea deal.
Prosecutors acknowledged the plea agreement isn’t necessarily what the family wanted, but the lawyers know trials aren’t always slam-dunks.
Caledonia County State’s Attorney Lisa Warren told Judge Michael Kupersmith that she and her deputy weighed the risk of non-conviction at trial.
In the past, Warren described challenges with evidence in the case, because the three men cleaned the crime scene well, then told conflicting, confusing stories.
“No sentence under Vermont law could even start to bring closure to the O’Hagan family members,” Warren said in court Friday, adding that the 15-30 year sentence should in no way minimize the value of Pat O’Hagan’s life.
Baird will be formally sentenced for the kidnapping in late May, when the victim’s family plans to tell the court about how long and painful this ordeal has been for them.
Judge Kupersmith said from the bench Friday that he will reserve his remarks on the case until that kidnapping sentencing.