A 30-year-old Ferris man has pleaded guilty to a murder charge stemming from a November 2006 incident in Ferris.

During a hearing Friday in 40th District Court, Judge Gene Knize presiding, Billy Dee Hale, 30, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on each of two charges: murder and harassment of a public servant in a correctional facility.

Hale also pleaded true to enhancement paragraphs within the indictments that had alleged a prior felony conviction.

Hale will serve the two sentences concurrently. He is credited with 1,165 days served relating to the murder charge and with 304 days served relating to the harassment charge, which relates to an incident that occurred after he was in custody.

On the initial offense, officers had responded to a residence in the 600 block of E. 5th St. in Ferris to discover an adult male had been shot. The victim was transported by air ambulance to a Dallas hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hale was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and had remained in custody since, primarily at Wayne McCollum Detention Center in Waxahachie.

During the course of the case as it moved toward a disposition, the defendantís competency had been a recurring issue that led to several continuances along the way.

On two occasions, Hale had been determined to be incompetent and was transferred to a mental health facility to regain competence before returning to Ellis County custody. The third time, the state contested his status as incompetent and a competency trial was held, with Hale found to be competent to stand trial.

With a trial on the charges set to move forward, the defense then prepared to raise an issue of insanity.

The defense noted during Fridayís hearing that a recent mental health examination was done, with the expert finding that Hale was not insane when the offense occurred. The expert also found that Hale was competent and able to go to trial.

With the plea agreement, Hale waived his right to appeal.

Contact JoAnn at joann@wninews.com or 469-517-1452.