The state can now try Kevin Munn, 34, of the Afton-Elberon community of Warren County, for the murder of Nancy Alford after a judge denied Munn’s request to withdraw a guilty plea in her death during a hearing held in Warren County Superior Court last week.

Judge Henry W. Hight, Jr. presided over hearing nearly four days of pretrial motions for co-defendant Lester Kearney, 37, of Littleton. 

Both men are accused of first-degree murder and other charges related to a home invasion and fire at the Wildwood Point home of the Rev. John and Nancy Alford on March 9, 2018. The state is seeking the death penalty in both cases.

Hight’s ruling to not allow Munn to withdraw a guilty plea from April 2018 also affects a guilty plea to first-degree murder in the 2017 shooting death of Vance County businessman Tommy Ellington. The judge’s order allows the state to try Munn separately for Ellington’s murder, for which the death penalty can also be sought.

Members of the Ellington family were in court on Thursday.

Munn initially admitted to guilt in both cases in a plea deal with the state. He agreed to truthfully testify for the state at trial in the Alford case, cooperate with authorities in cases related to the death of Nancy Alford, and in exchange would serve two consecutive life sentences instead of facing the death penalty.

In May 2018, Munn filed a motion to withdraw his plea agreement, claiming his innocence in both crimes and unethical conduct by his attorney and collusion among the DA, his attorney and law enforcement, and duress by Kearney, due to threats, to plead guilty.