Arkansas man gets 60 years in brutal killings of mom, 2 kids

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FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2018, booking file photo released by Pulaski County, Ark., Sheriff’s Office is William Burnell Alexander. Alexander pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, to aggravated robbery and three counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 60 years in prison in the December 2017 slayings of Mariah Cunningham, 5-year-old Alaylah Fisher and 4-year-old Elijah Fisher. (Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Little Rock man pleaded guilty to helping his half brother kill a woman and her two young children while robbing the family’s home — a crime in which prosecutors say he held the woman while his accomplice tortured the kids to death in front of her.

William Burnell Alexander, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated robbery and three counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 60 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, prosecutors dropped capital murder charges against Alexander in the killings of 24-year-old Mariah Cunningham, her 5-year-old daughter, A’Laylaih Fisher, and her 4-year-old son, Elijah Fisher.

A jury this month convicted Alexander’s half brother, 26-year-old Michael Ivory Collins, of capital murder and the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A’Laylaih was stabbed or slashed about two dozen times, mostly on her neck and face, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Elijah had about 14 wounds, also mostly in the neck. Both children’s throats had deep cuts, and Cunningham suffered about 30 wounds. Investigators collected two blood-tainted, serrated-edged knives from the family’s bathtub, one of which had its blade bent nearly 90 degrees.

Cunningham’s oldest child, a daughter who was 8 years old at the time, wasn’t home when her mother and siblings were killed.

Prosecutors said at Collins’ trial that Alexander restrained Cunningham while a knife-wielding Collins tortured her children to death one at a time, trying to get Cunningham to give up whatever money the men thought she had. They described Collins as the “monster” who killed the family.

During Tuesday’s plea hearing, Alexander hesitated to admit wrongdoing, which is a requirement for a guilty plea. But after Alexander’s public defenders consulted with him privately, he admitted that he joined Collins to rob Cunningham. He said he stole her TV, Xbox video game system and her broken-down Honda Accord after Collins killed the woman and her children.

Alexander first told detectives that he went to Cunningham’s apartment because Collins told him they could “make some … easy money,” not knowing what his Collins meant by that.

Alexander told investigators the pair waited in the apartment until Cunningham arrived that Collins suddenly started stabbing the woman with a knife, although he did not see the attack begin.

“All I hear was screaming. I turned around … and my brother was stabbing her … stabbing the mama, bro,” Alexander said on the recording.

A’Laylaih then ran toward Collins yelling “get off my mama,” but the mother and children were quickly killed, Alexander said.

“I’m like just standing there … like to the point where I’m dead where I can’t move,” Alexander said.

Alexander also pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the July 2017 killing of 64-year-old Billie Thornton at his Little Rock home. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in Thornton’s killing, which will run concurrently with his sentence for killing Cunningham and her children.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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