RICHMOND, Texas – A man who said the movie "The Passion of the Christ" (search) prompted him to confess to strangling his girlfriend on Wednesday pleaded guilty.
"I take full responsibility for my actions, and I plead guilty," Dan Leach II (search) told State District Judge Brady Elliott during his murder trial. Leach had pleaded innocent.
The jury immediately began hearing testimony in the punishment phase of the trial. He faces from five years to life in prison. Prosecutors asked for a life sentence.
"It's time to think of Ashley Wilson and the life she was deprived of," prosecutor Greg Gilleland said. "Give a life sentence to Dan Leach to keep him off the streets."
Ashley Nicole Wilson, 19, was found dead in her apartment in January. It appeared she had hanged herself, and the Harris County Medical Examiner's office ruled the death a suicide.
Two months later, Leach, 21, said he came forward after seeing the movie. He and told Fort Bend County sheriff's detectives in a taped interview of his elaborate plan to make the death appear as a suicide.
Police said Leach strangled Wilson because she was pregnant with his child and wanted nothing to do with the mother or the unborn baby. A medical exam done by an obstetrician days before Wilson's death showed she was pregnant, but an autopsy showed no evidence of pregnancy.
Leach, according to law officers, told Wilson to write him a letter describing everything that was bad in her life. After she wrote the letter, Leach told officers, he asked Wilson to sit on a bed and place a pillowcase over her head in a psuedo-therapy exercise. He then strangled her with the cord from her high school graduation gown, police said.
The cord was wrapped around her neck and tied to the headboard. Police, who say Leach had wiped the room for fingerprints, interpreted the letter as a suicide note.