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Suspect in Schenectady murder admits to robbery

Suspect in Schenectady murder admits to robbery

One of the three people charged in the December 2014 killing of Wayne Best in Schenectady pleaded gu
Suspect in Schenectady murder admits to robbery
Two suspects in the December 2014 murder of Wayne Best Jr. are led from their arraignment in Schenectady City Court on February 10, 2016. Pictured from left are Christopher E. Johnson, 25, and Todd A. Macon, 29, both of Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

One of the three people charged in the December 2014 killing of Wayne Best in Schenectady pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge.

Christopher E. Johnson, 25, of Schenectady, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree robbery.

Judge Matthew Sypniewski took the plea in satisfaction of the top count of second-degree murder that had been filed against Johnson.

Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham did not give details of the plea, including the expected length of time Johnson is to see in prison as a result. The court placed further details under seal.

Sypniewski instead only placed the general range of sentences for first-degree robbery — a minimum of five years and maximum of 25 years — on the record when admonishing Johnson against getting rearrested pending sentence.

Tremante-Pelham and defense attorney Mark Gaylord declined to comment afterward. Best’s mother, Karen Kirsch, attended Tuesday’s plea.

Authorities charged three people in connection with Best’s Dec. 9, 2014, death. Police arrested Johnson and Todd A. Macon, 29, in February, charging both with second-degree murder.

Prosecutors later indicted Troy Saunders, 31, of Schenectady, on a count of first-degree murder.

Saunders is accused of being the person who shot and killed Best during a robbery outside Best’s Parkwood Boulevard residence. Prosecutors have described Macon as “the mastermind” of the plot that led to Best’s death.

In a court appearance last month for Macon, Tremante-Pelham described Macon and Best as friends and accused Macon of “setting up” Best.

Saunders and Macon continue to face murder charges. Each remains in custody.

Authorities accused Saunders, Macon and Johnson of conspiring to rob Best the night of Dec. 8, 2014, into the next morning. The three allegedly sought him out and followed him home, intending to take unspecified items from him.

According to the indictments against the men, those involved in the conspiracy “made phone calls and sent texts to [Best] to ascertain his whereabouts” late Dec. 8 and early Dec. 9, 2014.

They then drove to multiple locations where Best said he’d be, and “followed the victim to his house on Parkwood Boulevard.”

One or more of the conspirators robbed Best in the early morning hours of Dec. 9, 2014. Then in the course of that robbery, Saunders shot and killed Best in the street, prosecutors allege.

Macon’s attorney, Michael Mansion, has reiterated that his client denies each of the allegations made against him.

Saunders last month sought and won the right to represent himself. Attorney Adam Parisi, a veteran of multiple high-profile cases who had been appointed to represent Saunders, will continue as shadow counsel.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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