JEFFERSON -- An Auburn man accused of killing his children and two others in 2006 has admitted to the slayings to avoid a potential execution, authorities said Monday.
Henry Lee Stringer, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of murder and arson. A Jackson County Superior Court judge sentenced Stringer to life in prison without parole, said the county's District Attorney, Brad Smith.
Stringer's admission came on the heels of a series of motions in which the court had ruled in the prosecution's favor, Smith said. Stringer faced the death penalty if convicted.
Smith hoped a concrete trial date -- potentially sometime this summer -- would emerge in motions scheduled later this month, he said.
"He came to us with the offer," Smith said. "We met with the family and decided this would be the best course of action."
Stringer faced murder and other charges for killing his two children -- J'Majuan Stringer, 4, and J'Lasia Stringer, 2 -- and their mother and grandmother -- J'Laine Strickland, 29, and Evelyn Strickland, 67 -- on May 30, 2006. He set fire to the Hoschton home where the victims lived to conceal evidence.
Prosecutors believe the children were alive when the fire broke out, Smith said. The women were fatally stabbed.
The murders -- Hoschton's first in a decade -- attracted statewide attention. In the wake of the killings, Gov. Sonny Perdue pledged $4,000 in contributions to a reward sum that was the largest in the Jackson County city's history.
More than a year passed before Stringer was charged with murder and arrested.
A week after the killings, Stringer nearly died when he was struck by a train and dragged about 200 feet near downtown Buford -- and near the cemetery where the victims were buried. He was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital, placed on life-support and discharged two months later. Investigators never publicly said if the incident was a suicide attempt or accident.
Gwinnett County Jail records show Stringer, formerly a Buford resident, was jailed eight times between 1998 and 2002 on a variety of charges. They included theft by taking, having a suspended license, giving a false name, DUI, failure to appear and violation of probation.