Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Karalyn Cross was sentenced to 55 years in prison Thursday for her part in the shooting death of Brandon Hubert back in August 2017.
Cross pleaded guilty to a murder charge back in March in the robbery that turned to homicide. She will have to serve at least half of that sentence before she is eligible for parole. She is 21 now and was 19 when she took part in the crime.
Hubert was shot and killed as he worked as a desk clerk at the Quality Suites on U.S. Highway 75 in 2017. Reginald Campbell pleaded guilty in February to shooting and killing Hubert, and was sentenced to life without parole in the case.
Under the terms of the plea agreement discussed earlier this year in the 15th state District Court before Judge Jim Fallon, Cross could have been sentenced to no more than 55 years in prison. She went to Fallon for punishment hoping, as Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore put it, to beat that maximum and get a lesser sentence. As part of the plea, the state dismissed the capital murder in the course of a felony charge and aggravated robbery charge that she faced in the case.
Nikeya Grant got 25 years in prison for being in the car with Campbell and Cross when the robbery and murder were committed. Grant was sentenced last month.
Ashmore said Cross deserved a harsher sentence because she actually took part in the crime that cost Hubert’s life. Testimony from all of the hearings in the case revealed she went into several hotels looking for a good place for Campbell to rob. She went into the Quality Suites and talked to Hubert about renting a room then went outside and told Campbell that the place was safe to rob.
On the stand Thursday, Cross said she and Grant heard a gunshot while Campbell was in the hotel. When he got to the car, she said, he said he had shot the clerk in the arm. She said it wasn’t until the next morning that she realized the clerk had been killed.
During the hours-long hearing Thursday, Cross’ attorney John Hunter Smith tried to point out the struggles his client had faced growing up, including being taken away from her parents as a baby and then being placed in the foster system after her grandmother died.
When asked why she helped Campbell leave town after finding out he had murdered someone, Cross answered that she didn’t know with a blank look on her face. That look remained until Ashmore started asking her questions about the good breaks she had had in life. After she was in the foster care system for a few years, she was actually adopted as a teenager. When the couple who adopted her broke up, the adopted mother, Ashmore said, picked Cross over her husband. That mother told investigators she did everything she could for Cross by providing her with material comforts and trying to redirect her to healthy pursuits and interests. But all of that, she said, was to no avail.
Cross said she left that adoptive mother and moved to Texas to be with the birth mother who had lost her children because of her drug abuse. The promises her birth mother made, Cross said, turned to dust when the teen arrived in Texas and she eventually ended up living with Grant and another woman.
Smith said his client suffered from an attachment disorder that kept her looking for acceptance and love in the wrong places. He urged the judge to sentence Cross to the lower end of the possible sentence. He said the answer to the "why questions" boils down to the fact that Cross didn’t know any better.
Fallon told Cross she was lucky that she got the plea deal that she did because he felt sure a jury would have sentenced her to life in prison. He said she had plenty of opportunity to turn things around for herself and Hubert, but she failed to act. Fallon said he could tell she was remorseful, but he couldn’t tell if that remorse was for the life that was taken or for herself.
As for the fact that she had turned herself in, Fallon pointed out that people were calling her and telling her that her picture was posted in connection with the murder. She knew, Fallon said, she was going to get caught.
Hubert’s sister-in-law spoke for the family and said it has been hard to be at all of the hearings and listen to them make excuses for what they had done. She said their actions robbed Hubert’s family of the person he would have become and the family he longed to have and share with them.
Jerrie Whiteley is the criminal justice editor for the Herald Democrat. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jlwhiteley.