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Houston man pleads guilty in fatal robbery at Denny’s restaurant

One of four men accused of killing a customer and wounding an employee at a Houston restaurant in 2013 agreed Tuesday to testify against his partners in exchange for a reduced sentence of 40 years in prison.

Just minutes before his trial was set to begin, Kenya D. Jackson admitted responsibility and gave details of the robbery of the Denny’s restaurant on Washington Street near Interstate 10.

THE CRIME: Denny’s robbery leaves 1 dead, 1 wounded

Jackson, 22, was facing the possibility of life without parole on a capital murder charge, and a panel of prospective jurors was lined up outside of Visiting Judge Wayne Mallia’s court when the deal was announced.

If Jackson testifies truthfully against the others, prosecutors will reduce the charges against him to aggravated robbery and agree to 40-year sentence. He will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least half of that time.

“This is just another story of a good kid who was running with the wrong crowd,” said defense attorney James Stafford. “He’s very remorseful.”

THE INVESTIGATION: Photos released of fatal robbery at Houston Denny’s

Prosecutors Cameron Calligan and Tiffany Johnson declined to comment because of the remaining cases.

The lawyers brokered the deal in open court, where Jackson admitted guilt and gave several details to bolster the prosecution’s case against the other men.

Jackson was arrested with Leroy Houston, 21, and cousins Mario Hilton, 20, and Corey Hilton. Corey Hilton died of an aggressive form of cancer while waiting to go to trial. He would have been 23 next week.

THE ARREST: Final suspect in deadly Denny’s robbery surrenders

All four were charged with capital murder in the killing of customer Robert Placette and the wounding of an employee about 10:40 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2013.

Placette, a 64-year-old Katy man, was shot after three of the suspects, all wearing bandanas and masks, stormed the restaurant. They ordered everyone to the ground and began demanding property.

Jackson said he had a stun gun, while Houston and Corey Hilton both had guns. He said he did not know who shot whom. Mario Hilton was the getaway driver, Jackson said.

They fled in a minivan they had stolen earlier that night, he said.

The Hiltons lived together and a neighbor identified them — along with Jackson — as prime suspects in the slaying, police said.

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