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Man Gets Plea Deal For Role in Milwaukee Native's Murder


MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WTAQ) - A 19-year-old man will be sentenced November 15th in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for his role in the murder of a law clerk from Milwaukee.

John Southwell struck a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree assault and robbery. He and 24-year-old Devon Frett are accused of shooting 27-year-old Milwaukee native Gabriel Lerner and stealing her car.

It happened in 2008, about a week after she was sworn into the Virgin Islands’ bar association. Lerner worked as a clerk for a Superior Court judge. She was shot once in the head, and her body was found on a rural dirt path at St. Thomas.

Lerner was reported missing when police found Frett and Southwell riding in the victim’s car. That started a chase in which the two slammed into a police vehicle. Southwell was moved from juvenile court into adult court to face charges of felony murder, aiding and abetting Frett with first-degree murder, and other counts – most of which were dropped in the plea bargain. Frett’s case is still pending.