To avoid death penalty, Hawkins pleads guilty to capital murder

By Adam Strunk

In what Harvey County Prosecutor David Yoder calls the swiftest resolution to a capital murder case he’s been a part of, Keith Hawkins pled guilty to one count of capital murder for the double homicide of Alyssa Runyon, 24, and her daughter Zaylynn Paz, 4.

In exchange for the guilty plea, Yoder’s office agreed to take the death penalty off the table for Hawkins when it came for sentencing. The guilty plea will likely mean life in prison without parole for Hawkins, age 20. That’s the only sentencing option available at his sentencing hearing set for 1 p.m. Feb 9.

Yoder said avoiding the death penalty was a motivating factor of the deal. Two counts of first degree murder were also dismissed. Yoder said he worked with Runyon’s family during the case and they consented to the deal. Yoder said the family wished to have details about the incident and as part of the plea Hawkins agreed to provide a written statement to the family. That statement will be done privately and not made public.

Yoder said he’d never seen such a statement included in any other plea agreement.

More details about the strangulation of Runyon and the stabbing of Paz might remain private with the trial process to be concluded after the deal and sentencing.
Yoder said investigators believed that Runyon knew Hawkins as an acquaintance and provided him a place to stay for a night after Hawkins was no longer welcome at a prior place he was staying.

Hawkins then murdered Runyon using blunt force trauma and strangulation and also stabbed Paz to death.