NEW YORK – A construction worker who admitted strangling an actress and then hanging her body to make it look like a suicide was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday.
Diego Pillco, a 20-year-old illegal immigrant from Ecuador, had pleaded guilty in February to first-degree manslaughter in exchange for the sentence. He had faced 25 years to life in prison if he had been convicted at trial.
Pillco, who was doing interior renovations in the Manhattan building where Adrienne Shelly had an apartment she used as an office, admitted he killed the "Factotum" actress after she found him trying to steal from her purse. He said he then hanged Shelly to make her death look like a suicide.
"I want to say to the family I didn't go out with the intention of hurting anyone," Pillco said just before the state trial judge imposed the sentence. "I have suffered because I know what I have done." Shelly's husband, Andy Ostroy, told Pillco he was "nothing more than a cold-blooded killer" and "a murderous beast" who intended to rob, rape and then silence an "innocent," "beautiful, loving woman."
Ostroy repeated Pillco's account of the incident to police, saying, "You tied her up and hung her the way you strung up pigs back home in Ecuador. What kind of animal are you?"
"Adrienne was the kindest, warmest, most loving, generous person I knew," Ostroy said. "She was incredibly smart, funny and talented, a bright light with an infectious laugh and huge smile that radiated inner and outer beauty."
Shelly, born Adrienne Levine, appeared in the 2005 movie "Factotum" with Matt Dillon. She made her directorial debut with "Sudden Manhattan" in 1996, and she wrote, directed and co-starred in "Waitress," which also featured Keri Russell. It was released in 2007, after Shelly's death.
The judge said Pillco would be subject to immediate deportation upon release from prison.