TROUP COUNTY, GA (WTVM) – During an arraignment hearing on Wednesday, a Georgia man charged in the murders of five people pled guilty to the charges in court.
Thomas Lee enters his guilty plea on all 11 counts, including the five counts in the murder of four family members and a family friend in late January. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, with an additional five years to serve.
Lee pled guilty, but also stated he was mentally ill. The judge accepted Lee's plea of guilty but mentally ill, and the court found him competent enough to make his plea. By pleading guilty, Lee has given up all of his rights and is satisfied with the work of his attorney.
During the reading of the indictment, Lee was visibly emotional as he issued his pleas at each count.
Among those who testified is the mother of Iionna Green, who said she loved and trusted Lee, but said "now we feel as if we failed our daughter."
"You, Thomas, have taken our hearts and joy. You taught us monsters are real. And we are not safe in our own homes," the mother testified.
Bailey Burtron's sister, Courtney Tucker, also gave a victim impact statement in court on Wednesday, saying she would never forget what happened to her when she was told her sister was dead.
"I collapsed in the middle of the street," Tucker said. "How can someone take the lives of five beautiful people?"
In a written statement read by his attorney, Lee asked for forgiveness from the families involved in the tragedy.
Lee was indicted on all 11 counts in May.
During the reading of the warrants in February, Troup County Magistrate Judge Vickie Sue McWaters said that Lee beat and shot his father-in-law, William Burtron, and shot and killed his wife, Christie Lee, mother-in-law, Sheila Burtron, and family friend, Iioanna Green. Judge McWaters said crimes happened sometime between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31, 2015.
The judge also said Lee killed his stepdaughter, Bailey Burtron, by asphyxiation. All five were found dead in at their LaGrange home on the 100 block of Woodstream Drive on Jan. 31.
Following the murders, Lee left the state, prompting a manhunt. Lee was detained at a bus stop in Tupelo, MS on Feb. 2 after a pastor in Alcorn, MS purchased Lee a bus ticket to Opelika, AL, where he has family. The car Lee was driving was found in Tennessee.
Check back for more updates on this developing story.