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Murder charge to be dismissed

LAWRENCEVILLE - Murder charges against a 21-year-old woman accused in the November death of a 17-year-old man are set to be dismissed, attorneys said Thursday.

Stephanie Brianna Buskey of Johnson City, Tenn., was arrested in March 2007 after authorities found evidence alleging Buskey's and 20-year-old Cleondre Lamarr Lacey's involvement in a drug-related robbery and fatal shooting at a Lawrenceville home.

Buskey and Lacey were subsequently indicted three months after their arrest on charges of felony murder and armed robbery.

According to a police report, officers found Cunningham shot to death inside his home and his 18-year-old friend Paul Theodore Mayhew outside suffering from gunshot wounds.

Cunningham was pronounced dead at the scene, and Mayhew was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center.

Gwinnett police detective J.D. Smith, who testified during a court hearing in April, said Lacey and Buskey went to the home to steal marijuana. Police believe Buskey drove to the home and stayed in a vehicle outside while Lacey went inside.

At the time District Attorney Danny Porter said the two could face life in prison if convicted of murder.

Buskey's attorney John Steakley said his client pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana and one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, both felonies.

As to the armed robbery, Steakley said Buskey entered a "best interest" guilty plea, which would allow a possible lesser sentence.

Buskey's attorney alleges she was simply at the scene but had no knowledge or expectation of any weapons being involved.

"All other charges as to Buskey will be dismissed," Steakley said. "The (district attorney) filed a superseding accusation which took the place of the charges in the indictment."

Steakley said Buskey's plea is the result of 10 months of investigation and negotiation by the state and the defense.

"She is pleased with the result, as it avoids the potential life sentence she faced if convicted of the original charges," Steakley said. "This arrangement also leaves her eligible for parole, for which she should be a good candidate."

Judge Tom Davis heard from the state, the defense and Cunningham's mother and decided to defer sentencing until the conclusion of Lacey's case.

Steakley anticipates the state will call his client as a witness in Lacey's trial, set to begin March 3.

He said "(Buskey) will give testimony consistent with her previous statement to police. Afterward, we anticipate a sentence recommendation from the state of 15 years, with the first 8 to be served in custody, and we will ask (the judge) to accept that recommendation."

Both Buskey and Lacey remain at the Gwinnett County Detention Center without bond.

Steakley said Buskey regrets her involvement in the incident.

"She wanted me to extend her condolences to the families of Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Mayhew," Steakley said.