A man charged with first-degree murder after police found him living with the corpse of an elderly woman has pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Ross Holford, 48, of Council Bluffs, was charged with killing 93-year-old Violet Christensen and living in her apartment while he stole money and other property to buy drugs.

He pleaded guilty on Monday in Pottawattamie County District Court to first-degree burglary, willful injury causing serious injury and probation violation.

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He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on the burglary charge and 10 years on for willful injury, to be served concurrently. The sentence for his probation violation also will run concurrently with the other sentences.

Police received a tip last March that someone was living with a corpse. Officers found the front door at the apartment had been forced open, and discovered Christensen's body in the bedroom.

Chief Deputy Pottawattamie County Attorney Jon Jacobmeier said that Holford admitted going to the apartment several times to burglarize it and never informed authorities about her death.

"It was a difficult case, evidence wise, to prove first-degree murder or felony murder," Jacobmeier said. "We had no physical evidence to corroborate a felony murder occurred."

According to police, Holford told authorities that when he entered the apartment, Christensen's body was in her bed. However, Jacobmeier said that circumstantial evidence and other evidence showed that Christensen was struck in some manner near the door to the apartment.

"She didn't have any family members, but she didn't deserve to die alone on the floor while people stole from her," Jacobmeier said.

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