Hayes pleads guilty to sexual assault, robbery one day before trial

Monday, April 28, 2008 | 9:02 p.m. CDT; updated 2:37 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — One day before he was scheduled to go on trial, the man accused of slaying a Clark Lane hotel manager last November pleaded guilty to charges related to a sexual assault and robbery eight days earlier at the same hotel.

Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight said Dwight T. Hayes, 21, would plead guilty to charges in the Nov. 16 incident in which a clerk at the Fairfield Inn was raped and robbed.

Timeline of events

Timeline of 2007 events for Dwight T. Hayes’ trials:

Nov. 13: A man attempts to rob a Kansas family staying at the Hampton Inn at 3410 Clark Lane. Brian Plattner slams the door when the man displays a gun and demands money. Nov. 16: A man robs and sexually assaults a female clerk at the Fairfield Inn at 2904 Clark Lane. Nov. 19: The Fairfield Inn changes its name to the Comfort Inn. Nov. 24: Guests became concerned when no one answers the phone at the front desk at the Comfort Inn and call police. Cynthia White, general manager of the hotel, is found dead at about 6:15 a.m. Saturday with a gunshot wound to the head. Nov. 25: Police arrest Hayes in connection with the death of Cynthia White. Police also charge Hayes with the attempted robbery at the Hampton Inn as well as the robbery and sexual assault at the Fairfield Inn.

“My witnesses were lined up and ready to go,” Knight said. “I was eager to try this case.”

Hayes still faces charges in connection with the slaying of Cynthia White, a manager of the same hotel, which changed its name to Comfort Inn in the one week between the assault on the clerk and the slaying of White.

According to the probable cause statement, on Nov. 16, a man came into the lobby of the Fairfield Inn and waited until it was empty. He said he was waiting for a friend. While waiting, he asked the victim if she would have sex with him. When she refused, he pulled out a handgun and demanded money from her.

The victim gave him money from the register, and the man told her to go into the back room. He demanded she remove her clothing , and then he raped and sodomized her.

Afterward, the man stole her car keys and left the hotel in the victim’s car.

Police originally arrested Hayes on Nov. 25 based on a surveillance photo recorded during an attempted robbery on Nov. 13 at the Hampton Inn on Clark Lane. Police released the picture to the media in hopes of making an arrest.

Police received a call about the man in the picture and arrested Hayes at the home of a relative, 1812 McKee St., in connection with the attempted robbery. During a search following the arrest, a handgun and ammunition thought to be used in White’s slaying were found at his residence. Police said Hayes also made incriminating statements about the murder and voluntarily admitted to committing the robbery and rape during interviews with investigators.

Knight plans to ask for the maximum for all crimes at Hayes’ June 23 sentencing.

“This was severe, egregious criminal conduct, it was over the top,” Knight said. “He just flat-out deserves the maximum sentences.”

If Hayes gets the maximum term, truth-in-sentencing laws mandate that he serve at least 85 percent of the term for the crimes carrying life sentences, which means that it will be 85.5 years before he is eligible for parole.

“What happens at sentencing will be critical here,” Knight said.

Although Knight said he felt his case was strong enough to get a guilty plea on all seven counts in trial, he was pleased with the plea.

“With a plea of guilty, his rights to appeal are substantially narrowed,” Knight said. “It’s the best possible outcome.”

On Monday, defense attorneys asked Boone County Judge Gene Hamilton to try the murder case today. Knight asked Hamilton for a continuance to be able to subpoena witnesses.

“I had a lot of witnesses subpoenaed for this trial, and a murder case takes even more witnesses,” Knight said.

Hamilton granted a continuance and on May 5 will set a date for the trial.

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