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story.lead_photo.caption McKellar

The driver of a man killed in a botched home invasion robbery in Mountain Pine in 2016 who had helped plan the robbery was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday in a last-minute plea agreement in Garland County Circuit Court.

Philip Edward McKellar, 23, of Hot Springs Village, had pleaded no contest on Dec. 11, 2017, to felony charges of aggravated residential burglary and manslaughter for his part in the home invasion that resulted in the death of Marion "Dean" Weathers, 61, of Hot Springs, and was scheduled for a jury sentencing Wednesday.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Joe Graham said Thursday they were set for the sentencing hearing when the defense indicated McKellar would agree to a sentence of 15 years on the aggravated burglary and 10 years on the manslaughter, to run concurrently, so Graham consulted with the victims of the home invasion and they agreed to the sentence.

"I let them make the decision of whether to agree to it or proceed to sentencing and they decided to agree to the terms," he said.

McKellar owed Weathers money and "they both went to Walmart where McKellar bought a shotgun because Weathers was a convicted felon and couldn't buy one," Graham said.

"He drove Weathers over there and Weathers told him he would forgive the debt McKellar owed him."

According to the affidavit, on March 6, 2016, Garland County sheriff's deputies responded to 2598 Mountain Pine Road in reference to shots fired and found Weathers face down on the steps. He was later pronounced dead of a gunshot wound at the scene.

While the scene was under investigation, Ryan Gravitt, 19, pulled up in a vehicle and stated "he had shot and killed the person at the house." Kyle Koontz, 30, a resident of the home, and Gravitt were detained for questioning. Gravitt stated he shot Weathers in self-defense after Weathers walked into the residence pointing a shotgun at Koontz. Gravitt said he retrieved a 9-mm handgun and shot Weathers. Koontz and several other witnesses verified Gravitt's statement. None of the occupants at the residence reportedly knew Weathers.

Security video at the residence was seized which showed a vehicle pulling in behind the Old Thompson's Store across from the residence. Weathers was seen walking up to the side of the house and pointing a shotgun at the person who answered the door and then entering. A few minutes later, Weathers is seen falling out of the residence, where his body was found by deputies.

The next day, investigators developed information McKellar was the driver who brought Weathers to the residence. When questioned, he admitted he drove Weathers to Mountain Pine Road so he could "hit a lick," slang for committing a robbery or theft. McKellar had been at the residence a few hours beforehand to buy marijuana and told Weathers they had drugs, money and guns inside. He stated he attempted to talk Weathers out of robbing them, but Weathers was insistent.

The two went to Walmart on Albert Pike at 9 p.m. Saturday and McKellar purchased a 12-gauge shotgun and shells. McKellar said he owed Weathers money and by "helping him with the robbery, he would be clear of his debt and would own the shotgun."

McKellar was arrested on March 7, 2016, and was released on $50,000 bond on March 18, 2016. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 9, 2016, and on Dec. 5, 2016, a mental evaluation was ordered to determine if McKellar was fit to proceed with trial. He was ruled fit to proceed on May 22, 2017, and a trial was scheduled.

Local on 08/10/2018

Print Headline: Driver in botched home invasion sentenced to 15 years in prison

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