Former Marine pleads no contest in slaying
The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Oct 24, 2007 7:45:38 EDT

ALBUQUERQUE — A former Marine accused of fatally shooting a man he said broke into his home has pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Elton John Richard, 30, entered the plea Tuesday before state District Judge Pat Murdoch, who said he ordered a pre-sentence report and tentatively set sentencing for Jan. 15.

Richard had been scheduled to go on trial Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder in the Dec. 30, 2004, killing of Daniel Romero, 34.

Richard last month rejected a plea deal that would have allowed him to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Billy Blackburn of Albuquerque, Richard’s attorney, has said his client had no choice but to defend his home.

Richard was accused of chasing Romero after hearing the sound of someone breaking into the northwest Albuquerque home he shared with his wife and their baby.

Richard, then a Department of Energy nuclear materials courier, found Romero in his garage dressed in black and carrying a sledgehammer and a screwdriver.

Blackburn has said it appeared Romero had broken one of the windows on Richard’s sport utility vehicle.

Romero ran, but Richard chased him, court documents said.

Neighbors called police, saying that they heard two men fighting outside and that one of them had a gun.

Officers saw Richard a few blocks away with no shoes on. When they approached him, he said: “I need help, I need help. They were trying to break into my house.”

When asked if anyone was hurt, Richard said, “He’s been shot” and pointed toward a fence where Romero’s body was found.

Richard, who now lives in Texas, was awarded about a dozen medals during his military career — half of them for service in Iraq, Blackburn said.