DEADWOOD - Shane Bell pleaded guilty Thursday to the second-degree murder of Bobbie McClure, canceling a monthlong trial scheduled for November.
Bell, 30, faces a mandatory life sentence in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, with no chance for parole.
Bell was arrested in Spearfish several hours after McClure was shot to death at a motel Dec. 20, 2008. McClure was Bell's girlfriend, and the couple was living at a Spearfish motel at the time of the killing. McClure's sister, Tammy Anderson, also was shot but survived.
Bell, wearing a tan jail uniform with leg irons and handcuffs, entered the plea after negotiations between his defense attorneys and Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald. Fourth Circuit Judge Randall Macy set a sentencing hearing for Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Deadwood.
Members of McClure's family and Bell's family gathered in the back row of the second-floor courtroom in the Lawrence County Courthouse for the hearing.
As part of the plea deal, Bell avoids South Dakota's death penalty, which Fitzgerald had sought since a grand jury brought first-degree murder charges in the case.
Bell earlier pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but changed his plea Thursday after the death penalty, first-degree murder and attempted murder charges were dropped.
Bell told Judge Macy that he and McClure were drinking all day Dec. 20 and were arguing. That night, they went back to the motel, where they continued to drink and argue, Bell said. Around 10 p.m. Bell grabbed his .22-caliber rifle.
"I shot her numerous times, which resulted in her death," Bell said. "I take full responsibility."
McClure's family couldn't hold back tears when Fitzgerald detailed the murder.
Fitzgerald said Bell fired the rifle 15 times, hitting McClure nine times. Bell shot McClure in the head seven times at close range, Fitzgerald said. An autopsy revealed McClure was alive when each bullet struck.
"In this case, with the facts and these circumstances, justice was served," Fitzgerald said after the hearing. "He (Bell) will die in the penitentiary for taking a human life."
Defense co-counsel Joe Kosel of Lead, said the plea deal was a goal of the defense team since the murder occurred. He said Bell was concerned about dragging out a detailed monthlong trial for the family.
Fitzgerald added that, although McClure's family members may be satisfied with the life sentence, they still hurt from the loss of their daughter.
"There is no pleasure in losing a loved one," he said.
Bell will be held in the Lawrence County Jail without bond until sentencing.