PLEASE NOTE: At the time of the original publication of this article, court records did not indicate a sentence for Lang for the aggravated assault conviction. The sentence has since been announced and the story was subsequently updated with Lang’s additional sentence.
WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A Wichita Falls murder defendant who recently asked for a hearing to lower his $1 million bond instead decided to plead guilty to the May 2022 murder of Zachary Wood on Brown Street.
According to court documents, Ronnie Preston Lang, Jr., 18, of Wichita Falls, entered his guilty plea on Friday morning, September 2, 2022, in the 30th District Court. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison for his role in the Brown Street Murder.
Court records show a separate and unconnected charge of aggravated assault that occurred a week before Wood’s murder in the same house. Lang was also convicted for this charge and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
According to court documents, Lang’s two sentences will run concurrently.
This comes days after Lang’s defense attorney filed a motion to reduce Lang’s $1 million bond. Lang’s attorney said his client has tried through friends and family to raise money for his bonds but has been unable to do so.
Lang’s attorney stated the two bonds, $1 million for murder and $200,000 for aggravated assault, are oppressive.
The hearing on the motion to reduce those bonds was scheduled for Friday, September 2, where Lang instead chose to plead guilty.
Lang’s co-defendant William Andrew Bell, 28, of Wichita Falls, was granted a lower bond on July 29, 2022. Another co-defendant, Ashley Marie Esselborn, 21, of Wichita Falls, had her bond lowered to $100,000 on July 25, 2022.
Lang, Bell, and Esselborn are three of the four defendants indicted for Wood’s murder in August 2022.
The fourth defendant, Payton Mackenzie Collier, 28, of Wichita Falls, remains jailed on a $1 million bond. She filled out a form on August 22 stating she had been in jail for more than 90 days and asked if she could get a lower bond, but a magistrate ruled no change in her bond would be made at that time.
Around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2022, police were called to the 2100 block of Brown Street for a welfare check. When police arrived on the scene, they found Zachary Wood, 23, deceased, and said the nature in which his body was found led them to suspect foul play.
According to the affidavit, autopsy results would later reveal Wood’s manner of death as a homicide, and an investigation began.
Police said Collier confessed to her involvement in the murder, leading police to Lang and Bell, who later confessed as well. Lang gave a statement to police and admitted he was responsible for Wood’s death, saying “things went too far.”
The three other Brown Street Murder defendants remain behind bars, and no new information is available on their individual trials at this time.