PARK RAPIDS -- A Michigan pipeline worker admitted to the sexual strangulation of a Park Rapids woman last year and accepted a plea agreement on Wednesday that will result in a 41 1/2-year prison term.
Richard Derek Wright, 42, was transported immediately to the Minnesota Correctional Facility - St. Cloud to begin serving his term in the Jan. 29, 2008 death of Sonya Hennagir, 40, in her Park Rapids home.
The victim's father and brother sat quietly in the Hubbard County District courtroom as attorneys took Wright through the events leading up to Hennagir's death.
In addition to the Second Degree Murder count, Wright also admitted to having inappropriate sexual contact with a minor in the home after the murder.
"I lost control," Wright testified. "It's my fault."
In response to prosecutor Eric Schieferdecker's question about how long Wright choked the victim before she stopped breathing, Wright replied, "I honestly couldn't tell you."
But he admitted he intentionally caused her death.
The sentences, 391 months on the murder count and 108 months on the criminal sexual conduct charge, are to be served consecutively. Wright, depending on his criminal history as determined by the Department of Corrections, may serve less time. He will be eligible to apply for parole after serving nearly 28 years.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped numerous charges, including two counts of First Degree Murder, filed by a grand jury in September 2008. Wright was scheduled to go on trial Sept. 8.
Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said prosecutors sought family input before entering the plea.
"After speaking with the family, the thought was that if we could resolve it in a fashion that would serve justice and provide a significant sentence to the defendant, and by doing that preventing the minor from having to testify and face this individual in court, it would be beneficial to the family and to serve the public," he said.
Wright admitted to being in a psychiatric hospital four years ago, but said it did not impair his ability to understand the court proceedings.
He will be formally sentenced Sept. 24. Some of the victims and family members are expected to testify at that time.