An Army soldier based at Fort Campbell hired to kill his friend’s 2-year-old stepson, infant daughter and estranged wife will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Zackery Alexander, 23, pleaded guilty in Circuit Court Monday to first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder following the Oct. 4, 2015, shooting of 2-year-old Joseph Bankston. Alexander also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to murder 1-year-old Lilly Wi and mother Alicia Bankston. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of the children’s grandmother, Rachel Bankston Lee, according to The Leaf-Chronicle.
Alicia Bankston’s estranged husband, David Wi, is thought to be the mastermind behind the attack, with both him and Alexander conspiring to execute Bankston’s entire family. David Wi pleaded guilty in the case in October 2016 and was sentenced to life plus 50 years.
On the day of the murder, Alexander knocked on Bankston’s door while she was with her boyfriend, Brandon Jimenez, her mother and her 1-year-old child at her mother’s Clarksville, Tennessee, home. The military vet asked Jimenez for jumper cables before producing a gun and shooting him several times. Jimenez, a medic at Fort Campbell, miraculously survived.
He then shot Joseph Bankston in the back of the head after finding him in his grandmother’s room. Alicia hid in a bedroom with her infant daughter and both were unharmed. The grandmother took refuge in a bathroom and also escaped unscathed. Alexander was arrested 10 days after the crime when police found a pistol in his car tied to shell casings at the scene.
Alexander faced the possibility of receiving the death penalty prior to agreeing on a plea deal.
According to a prior report from the Chronicle, the defense provided the following reasons for seeking the death penalty:
- The murder of a person less than 12 years old while the defendant was older than 18.
- There was a great risk of death to two or more people other than Joseph Bankston.
- A murder was carried out for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant or another.
- Knowingly committing a murder while the defendant had a substantial role in the committing or attempting to commit a first-degree murder.
- Knowingly committing a murder while the defendant had a substantial role in committing or attempting to commit a burglary.
The state also filed papers for a capital murder trial, which they hoped would result in a conviction and subsequent execution.
Alexander and Wi knew one another because they were in the Army together. Alicia Bankston and David Wi had separated months before the brutal killing.