Updated at 12:10 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018.
David Ryan Walker admitted in court Friday morning that he killed his pregnant girlfriend and tried to hide her body in the woods.
Days before his jury trial was scheduled to begin, Walker pleaded guilty to malice murder, felony murder, feticide, concealing a death and aggravated assault. The most serious offense was malice murder, for which he will serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Georgia law allows prisoners with murder charges to go before a parole board after serving 30 years in prison.
In Walker's case, he will be eligible after 29 years. He receives credit for the year he spent at the Walker County Jail in Georgia after his arrest in January 2017. At the time, Sheriff Steve Wilson said Walker killed his girlfriend, 29-year-old Candace Ann Hankins, in their house on Wheeler Road in LaFayette, Georgia.
Wilson said Walker then called relatives and asked for help hiding the body. The relatives instead called the police.
"They did the right thing," Wilson said during a news conference at the time.
Lookout Mountain Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton said Walker strangled Hankins. Wilson said he later wrapped her body in a blanket and dragged her into the woods, about 75 yards from the house.
The sheriff said he was surprised by how Walker acted when officers arrived.
"You would think that a murder suspect would be somewhat nervous or apprehensive," Wilson said. "He was very calm. He answered the deputy's questions and did not resist in any way."
Norton said he was not sure exactly why Walker killed Hankins.
"Walker stated that he didn't know why he killed Ms. Hankins, the evening her body was discovered," Norton wrote in an email. "After that Walker gave a couple of different explanations as to why he did what he did."
Wilson said officers were familiar with the home on Wheeler Road before the killing. Some had been there on previous calls about domestic violence or drug use, the sheriff said. According to the Walker County Clerk of Court website, Walker previously pleaded guilty to affray in 2009, and he was convicted of simple battery and obstruction of officers in 2010.
In February 2016, records show, officers arrested him for possession of oxycodone, marijuana and drug-related objects.
During Friday's plea hearing, Walker gave a brief statement.
"He expressed his remorse at what happened," Dunn said.
Walker's felony murder and aggravated assault charges merged with his malice murder charge for the purpose of sentencing. Dunn said he received a 20-year sentence for the feticide charge and a 10-year sentence for the charge of concealing a death. Both sentences run concurrent to the malice murder sentence, meaning prison officials will credit Walker for serving them all at the same time.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.