Murder charges dropped, plea agreement reached in Hayes case |

Murder charges dropped, plea agreement reached in Hayes case

In a surprise twist, the District Attorney’s office dropped murder charges against Lauren Hayes Wednesday and offered her a plea bargain, which she accepted.

“There was a lot of discussion and a lot of tears,” said Nevada County Public Defender Thomas Anderson of his client. “It was too good to pass up.”

Hayes appeared in court Wednesday morning and pleaded no contest to new charges of voluntary manslaughter, grand theft, and possession of a firearm with a special enhancement of possessing a firearm as a felon.

She is now eligible for a maximum of 13 years and four months in prison and a fine of $10,000, with a minimum possible sentence of five years in prison.

Because she pleaded no contest to a violent felony, said Nevada County Superior Court Judge John Darlington, only 15 percent – or four and a half months – of the 30 months she has already spent in jail will go toward time already served.

After several evidentiary hearings scheduled to begin Thursday, Darlington is expected to hand down Hayes’ sentence in 60 days.

After changing her plea Wednesday morning, Hayes walked past her parents and out of the courtroom with tears in her eyes.

“What a difficult decision to have to make,” Anderson said. “You can stand on principle or be practical.”

Until Wednesday’s plea change, Hayes was facing a possible sentence of life in prison for the murder of Lawrence Leffingwell, found shot in the back of the neck inside his Cadillac at Edward’s Crossing at the Yuba River on Sept. 5, 2003.

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