Cody Roberson pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing his mother, Jana Roberson, in January with an aluminum baseball bat.

Wearing a black and white striped jail uniform and with his ankles shackled, Roberson stood beside his court-appointed attorney, Heath Allen, in the 266th Judicial District Court and pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a 50-year prison sentence.

Roberson’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

As part of the plea deal, Roberson agreed to testify against any defendant who might be charged in connection with the murder. Roberson’s 15-year-old girlfriend was with him when he killed his mother inside the family’s Stephenville residence.

“My investigation uncovered the truth - something the state’s investigation never would have found,” Allen said. “Turning over that information enabled my client to receive a sentence much less than what an Erath County jury would have given him.”

Allen said the defense hired Coy West and Nancy Bidwell, investigators from Hill County, who uncovered information that proves Cody Roberson was not the only one involved in the murder.

District Attorney John Terrill said he is not sure if additional charges in the case will be filed and that the investigation is ongoing.

“This is a unique situation because we have family on both sides,” Terrill said. “It is a double tragedy.”

Terrill said part of the decision to enter into a plea deal was to protect the Roberson family, who he said would have suffered through a trial.

On the night she was killed, Jana Roberson picked up her son and his girlfriend and brought them to the family’s home, according to authorities. Within hours, something sparked a dispute that turned deadly.

“There are several theories about what happened (to spark the dispute), but no one is really sure,” Allen said.

What is known is that during the time when the three were alone in the house, something went terribly wrong.

Shortly before 11 p.m., investigators found Jana Roberson’s body after dispatch received a frantic 911 call from the girlfriend’s family who claimed there had been a murder.

When authorities arrived at the scene, they discovered a brutal crime scene and the body of the deceased inside a section of the house described as an enclosed porch.

Roberson and his girlfriend fled the scene in the victim’s vehicle. The couple allegedly drove to Mineral Wells, before coming back to Stephenville, where Roberson dropped off his girlfriend.

Roberson was arrested hours later in Early after a foot chase with Brown County sheriff’s deputies. The baseball bat used in the killing was recovered about eight miles north of Stephenville, on U.S. Highway 281, within days of the arrest.

Jana Roberson has been described by friends as someone who loved doing crafts and working on the computer. More importantly, friends say she was deeply devoted to her troubled son, who had a history of family violence.

One month before her murder, Roberson was arrested for assaulting her during a separate incident and was placed on probation.

Roberson will be eligible for parole in 25 years - after serving half of his prison sentence.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.