ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis man pleaded guilty Wednesday during trial and admitted his involvement in a 2019 murder in the city’s Walnut Park West neighborhood.

Prosecutors with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office said Earl Payne, 24, along with Teraz Bateman and Cortez McCullough, set up a fake marijuana deal in order to rob associates of cash. The trio met with Charles Lagrone III and others on Aug. 9, 2019, in the 5500 block of Goodfellow Boulevard.

At some point during the transaction, Lagrone was shot and killed. He was 22.

Payne was in the third day of a jury trial when he changed his plea. He pleaded guilty to armed criminal action, robbery, witness tampering, gun theft, and a reduced charge of second-degree murder.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge sentenced Payne to 20 years in state prison.

Bateman, 25, was sentenced to life in prison in October 2022 after being convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, and armed criminal action.

Meanwhile, charges against McCullough, who was a juvenile at the time of the killing, are still pending.