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Steven Kelley
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Jordan Craig

A man charged in the 2014 beating death of a church pastor was sentenced Monday morning to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

Steven Kelley, 23, made the guilty plea to Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz.

Kelley and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Jordan Craig, both were charged in the death of Kenneth Johnson.

In November 2014, police found Johnson, an associate minister at Mount Canaan Baptist Church, beaten to death in a ditch off Blackford Street in Chattanooga.

Officers said they searched Johnson's car and discovered text messages on his cellphone to Kelley and Craig.

Kelley told detectives he and Craig planned to meet with Johnson to buy drugs. He said he hid in the back seat of Craig's car while she met with Johnson. He said he confronted Johnson after the minister propositioned Craig, and defended himself after Johnson attacked him with a crowbar.

Officers said Kelley told them he had been hit in the head and across his chest, but they found only a scratch on his head and no bruise on his torso. A search of the scene did not turn up any illegal drugs, police said, and they concluded Kelley and Craig had lured Johnson into an alley to rob him.

Johnson's family and church members said he had met the pair to minister to them. His wife, Sandra Johnson, said he had a reputation for working on the street with people in need.

Craig's next court appearance is set for Oct. 26.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673, sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook, www.face book.com/noogahealth.

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