A Hewitt man whose capital murder conviction in a murder-for-hire scheme was overturned could soon be freed from prison after he pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge.
Tyler Sherrod Clay, 33, was sentenced in December 2018 to life without parole in the murder of Joshua Ladale Pittman three years earlier. The 10th Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in May 2021.
Under the deal approved by the McLennan County District Attorney, Clay pleads guilty to criminal solicitation, a second-degree felony, and would be required to serve four years and nine months in prison. However, he will receive credit for nearly five years of time served in prison and McLennan County Jail.
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Clay was originally convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole in Dec. 2018 in the 2015 shooting death of Joshua Ladale Pittman, 37.
Pittman was shot and killed around 11 p.m. on Dec 23, 2015 at Pick N Pay Foodmart, 504 Faulkner Lane. Witnesses reported that a masked man entered the store and gunned Pittman down as Pittman was playing a video gambling machine. No suspects were arrested in the case for 18 months following the shooting.
In the original trial in 2018, a McLennan County jury ruled that Clay hired Keith Antoine Spratt to kill Pittman.
However, that conviction was overturned in May 2021 after the 10th Court ruled that 54th State District Court Judge Matt Johnson abused his discretion by dismissing one of Clay’s attorneys, Jessi Freud, due to a potential conflict of interest. Johnson is now a justice with the 10th Court.
Spratt in December 2021 was also found not guilty of the murder, but he remained jailed on drug charges.
Court documents filed in the solicitation case say Clay asked James Spears to kill Pittman. Spears testified in the original case that Clay offered him $5,000 to kill Pittman, and Spears agreed but was arrested on robbery charges before he could do so.
McLennan County prosecutor Kristi DeCluitt said the death of one of the witnesses in the original trial as well as the acquittal of Spratt made it difficult for the state to prove Clay was guilty for a second time.
“The District Attorney’s office believes that today’s plea bargain is in the interest of justice,” DeCluitt said. “First, Mr. Clay for the first time admitted that he did solicit the murder of Mr. Pittman. Second, Mr. Clay is once again a convicted felon, and, third, Mr. Pittman’s family can finally have some closure in the wrongful death of their loved one.
DeCluitt said she believes Clay will be released from prison soon, but the timing has not been announced.