2 suspected gang members take plea deals in deaths of 2 Nebraska men beaten with bat

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LINCOLN, Nebraska — Two gang members pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges in the beating deaths of two Lincoln men who police say were randomly attacked.

Ricky McLaughlin III of Lincoln and Tyler Thornburg of Cheney took plea deals earlier this week to reduce their second-degree murder charges, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1pAWO8R ). The men also pleaded no contest Monday to one count each of use of a deadly weapon in the assaults on David Mueller, 27, and Nathan "Shane" Walton, 20.

Prosecutors said McLaughlin, 20, and Thornburg, 23, were a part of a gang called True Blue Soldiers who used a baseball bat to beat random victims to make a name for their group.

Lincoln police found Mueller beaten near his home after they received an early morning call on June 29, 2013, about a man on the ground. It happened about half a mile from McLaughlin's rental house.

Officers discovered Walton about an hour later, facedown and bleeding from his head, near Calvary Cemetery. A witness heard yelling and saw a group of men attacking a person, then saw a red pickup speed away.

Both men later died from their wounds.

The department's investigation focused on McLaughlin after officials learned the red pickup belonged to his grandfather. Officers also seized a blue aluminum baseball bat from Thornburg's home.

Families of both victims said they were caught off guard by the plea agreements.

"Is it what we want? No," said Stephanie Walton-Tadlock, Walton's aunt. "But it's something."

Mueller's father declined to comment, saying the family needed more time to process all that has happened.

The sentencing for McLaughlin and Thornburg is scheduled for Aug. 29.

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