ST. JOHNSBURY, Vermont — One of three men charged with breaking into the home of a 78-year-old grandmother and killing her agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for the dismissal of murder charges against him, the prosecutor said Thursday.
Richard Fletcher did not fire the shot that killed Pat O'Hagan in her Sheffield home in 2010, and there is little physical evidence that can be used to make the case against the other suspects, Caledonian County State's Attorney Lisa Warren said Thursday during a change of plea hearing.
"Based on the factual background as well as his role here in this case, we believe it is the appropriate resolution," Warren told Vermont Superior Court Judge Robert Bent in a St. Johnsbury courtroom.
A plea agreement calls for Fletcher, who is in prison on another conviction, to serve a minimum of 15 years. He agreed to plead guilty to burglary, kidnapping and related offenses.
Two of O'Hagan's sons said after the hearing that the plea agreement was a step toward final resolution of the case.
"We consider this a necessary evil or a positive first step in the process," said Mark O'Hagan, of Bolton, Massachusetts.
He said it has been more than four years since Fletcher, now 27, admitted to having a role in his mother's death.
"The process is arduous," O'Hagan said. "Hopefully it will continue for the other two."
The legal cases against the other suspects, Michael Norrie and Keith Baird, are pending.
In court, Warren read a description of how Fletcher, Norrie and Baird burglarized O'Hagan's home late on the evening of Sept. 10, 2010, believing she had money because she had been involved in a local festival.
Norrie and Baird went in the front door and then let a masked Fletcher in through the back door. The men, all three of whom were carrying guns, found Pat O'Hagan awake, Warren said.
Norrie forced her into the kitchen area, made her kneel down and held a gun to her head while the others searched the house. Several minutes later Fletcher heard a shot, went to the kitchen and found O'Hagan lying on the floor, the prosecutor said.
Afterward they put O'Hagan's body into Baird's truck and left it for a week before allegedly disposing of it in the woods. Hunters found the body a few weeks later.
In court Thursday, Fletcher repeatedly answered Bent's questions about whether he understood the consequences of pleading guilty with a clear "yes, your honor," or "no, your honor."
Defense Attorney Dan Sedon told the court Fletcher's plea was "a complete acceptance of responsibility."
Mark O'Hagan said even though they have known what happened to their mother, Thursday marked the first time the gruesome events were laid out in court.
He and his brother agreed with the plea agreement.
"We certainly trust and respect the prosecutor and certainly the state police that they felt this was important to be able to get charges to stick against the other two or compel them to do similar plea agreements," Mark O'Hagan said.
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