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Plea deal ends 20-year saga over teen's murder; Credit for time served

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LIVINGSTON – Prosecutors reached a plea deal with a suspect in the 1998 killing of high school student Eric Walber.

Michael Wearry was awaiting a retrial after a previous death sentence conviction was thrown out. Wearry argued he was coerced into giving false statements, leading to the conviction.

Wednesday, Wearry returned to court for an unscheduled hearing. During the hearing, prosecutors revealed they’d come to a plea deal that would have Wearry pleading guilty to manslaughter with a 25-year sentence.  

Both sides spent much of Wednesday determining how much credit Wearry should received for time he's already served.  In court, prosecutors said they agreed to give credit for time Wearry has served since March 4, 1999.

Dept. of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick said that because Wearry had previously been convicted of a violent crime, he is not eligible for good-time parole, which is reduced time in prison for good behavior and is automatic in many cases where offenders don't commit further crimes while in prison.

Wearry will become eligible to apply for regular parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence, Pastorick said. The Parole Board would have to conduct a public hearing and then vote to approve that request before he could be released.

Calculating his time since 1999 and if the Parole Board denied an early release, Wearry likely wouldn't be released until sometime in 2023.

Walber was an Albany High School student where he played football.  He was found dead - beaten, robbed and run over - on the side of the road after making a pizza delivery.  


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