INEZ, Ky. — A Williamson man has pleaded guilty in court to three counts of murder, according to Tony Skeans, assistant commonwealth attorney for the 24th Circuit.

Police say that on March 23, 2018, Lance Ward, 29, fatally shot Amber Lockhard, 31, Micah Sammons, 20, and Dereck L. James, 26, along Goff Branch, which is just off Route 292 in Martin County but right at the Pike County line.

The old dirt road leads to a former mountaintop mine site where people ride ATVs and hunt, and there is also a family cemetery up on the hill.

Sammons and James were pronounced dead at the scene. Lockhard was found still alive but died later in the hospital.

Ward was originally indicted on three counts of murder and two counts of robbery by a grand jury in May 2018 and originally plead not guilty in June 2018.

In February 2019, paperwork was filed by prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the case, and Ward was scheduled to go before a grand jury in March of this year.

According to Skeans, who was the lead prosecutor on the case, the robbery charges were dropped and prosecutors recommended a life sentence without parole for 25 years.

“It was an opportunity to resolve the case, and the majority of the family representatives were very much in favor of this resolution,” Skeans said. “At least those that were at the table. There may be some that were not actually at the table that may express different views, but those that were at the table, this was the majority of the individuals there, were in favor of this solution.”

Ward was represented by attorney Garland Arnette, who is the director of the Department of Public Advocacy Trial Office in Pikeville, Kentucky. He will be sentenced at a Feb. 20 hearing.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.