GATESVILLE (November 20, 2013) Former Gatesville pastor David K. Allen, 51, who was charged with capital murder in the fiery March 2011 death of his wife, pleaded guilty late Wednesday afternoon to a lesser charge that will spare him the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.
Allen was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to arson causing death with a deadly weapon finding.
He must serve half of the sentence before he’s eligible to seek parole, Coryell County District Attorney Dustin Boyd said Wednesday.
Allen, in accepting the deal, waived his right to appeal and abandoned a $250,000 life insurance policy he took out on his wife 40 days before the fire, Boyd said.
“This sentence not only secures the outcome desired by the victim’s family, but ensures that peace may be brought to their lives and no further appeals or enduring a long trial will be something they have to experience," Boyd said.
Allen was scheduled to go on trial on Feb. 24, 2014 for the murder of his wife, Paula Allen, 54, who was found dead inside the couple's mobile home behind the New Life Church of Restoration just east of Gatesville.after a fire that investigators said was intentionally set.
Prosecutors weren’t seeking the death penalty.
If he had been tried and convicted, he would have received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Boyd said investigators believed the life insurance money and Allen's relationship with a woman he later married formed the motive for the murder.
"Proving the arson part would have been the toughest part of this case for us,” Boyd said.
Boyd said investigators took a second look at the fire after watching the case of Ed Graf, the Hewitt man who won a new trial earlier this year after he was convicted 25 years ago of setting a shed fire that killed his two adopted sons.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Graf’s capital murder conviction in March, citing faulty arson science after a hearing in January in Waco in which experts testified that modern forensic techniques could prove Graf didn't start the fire in the backyard shed.
Boyd said one of the arson experts who testified in the January hearing was hired to review the mobile home fire and determined there was no conclusive evidence the fire was set deliberately, or that it wasn’t.
Allen, who was indicted in February 2012, was accused of setting the fire deliberately, using a flammable accelerant.
He told authorities he was asleep in the living room and his wife was asleep in a bedroom when the fire broke out just after 1 a.m. on March 22, 2011.
He said he was able to escape the flames that morning, but said he was overcome by smoke as he tried to rescue his wife.
Gatesville Fire Chief Billy Vaden said firefighters tried to get into the back of the mobile home to find the woman, but the roof caved in before they could make entry.
Allen's current wife, Megan Lynn Allen, 28, was later indicted for perjury in connection with what Boyd said was testimony about her relationship with David Allen prior to November 2010.
All charges against her were dropped as part of the plea deal, Boyd said Wednesday.
She and her husband have a 2-year-old child, Boyd said.
(John Carroll contributed to this story)