Jury selection was underway Monday morning in the Houston County Superior Court when Kaden Barefoot changed his plea to guilty.
He was sentenced 20 years for voluntary manslaughter and another 30 years (20 to be served concurrently) for criminal attempt to commit armed robbery. The last 10 years of the 30-year sentence will be probation.
Barefoot's attorney says that potentially gives him a life after prison.
"That was very much an incentive for him to enter a plea. If he were to be convicted of murder after a jury trial, then he would have to serve 30 years in confinement before the parole board could even consider paroling him from that sentence," Gregory Bushway said outside the courtroom.
Barefoot did address the court and Skeen's family. He told them he had made a bad decision and hoped they could forgive him.
Skeen's family addressed the court before Barefoot and said they were still mourning the loss of their son and brother.
Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig said he was not even considering a plea deal until this past weekend. The defense had filed several motions on Thursday that they say would have revealed evidence that Skeen was looking for a gun. The defense team says Skeen was worried about getting robbed while selling drugs.
Hartwig said the motions and the rulings on those motions gave him pause and after talking with the family a plea deal became an alternative.
He also says the suspect's age was an additional challenge.
"You know I've prosecuted folks before for murder that were 16, 17, and 18. Never prosecuted someone this young, so that was kind of an unknown for us. And I didn't know how jurors were going to view that or how they were going to deal with that," Hartwig explained after court.
Barefoot, 14, was set to go on trial for the 2015 shooting of Ryan Skeen, 16. On Oct. 24, Houston County Superior Court Judge George Nunn delayed the trial after the defense team said they had issues with how the jury was being selected.
Skeen was shot in the neck in Oct. 2015 in the 200 block of Franklin Square. He was originally put on life support, but taken off the next morning.
Police have said that drugs were involved in the case and that robbery was a motive.