The man accused of fatally shooting a Soldotna man along the Seward Highway nearly four years ago and stealing his pickup truck entered a plea Monday of "no contest" to murder.
In exchange for having several other felony charges dropped, Robert Owen Holt Jr., 22, agreed to plead no contest to one count of first-degree murder.
The plea arrangement, accepted by Kenai Superior Court Judge Charles T. Huguelet, stipulated Holt would be sentenced to 25 to 50 years actual jail time to serve. Sentencing was set for July 8.
"I believe it's the appropriate resolution," said assistant district attorney Scot Leaders.
"It brings a satisfactory conclusion to the case for everyone involved," he said.
Holt was accused of killing Harold J. Sipary, 44, who had stopped to pick up the hitchhiking Holt, who was returning to Soldotna from Anchorage on May 1, 2001.
After driving a short distance from the Hope Junction, Holt reportedly told Sipary he needed to relieve himself, and when Sipary pulled into a roadside pullout at Mile 48, Holt shot him once in the face with a .22 caliber pistol.
Sipary slumped over the steering wheel and Holt went around to the driver's side of the pickup, opened the door and Sipary fell out of the truck.
Holt later told investigators he checked Sipary's pockets for money and heard him making breathing noises. He shot him a second time in the side of the head as he lay on the ground.
Holt then took the pickup and drove it to Anchorage where he picked up some friends and drove around town the next day.
Sipary's body was found in the pullout by passers-by who called Alaska State Troopers.
A police bulletin was issued to be on the lookout for Sipary's pickup, which was spotted May 2 in Anchorage.
After questioning, Holt was taken into custody, where he has remained since.
Holt also had been charged with one count of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree vehicle theft, two counts of third-degree theft, one count of tampering with physical evidence, one count of first-degree burglary and two counts of second-degree theft.
Some of the charges stem from an alleged burglary during which Holt stole pistols from his grandfather and took his grandfather's pickup truck.
On Monday, Holt was led into the Kenai courtroom in handcuffs and wearing a yellow short-sleeve prison jumpsuit revealing large tattoos on each arm.
He sat staring downward as Huguelet read terms of the plea agreement. Holt's attorney, Steve Wells, spoke telephonically from Juneau.
After reading the agreement, Huguelet asked Wells if that was his understanding of the terms.
"Yes, the plea is no contest to one count of murder in the first degree, and the court has the authority to sentence Mr. Holt to active jail time of 25 to 50 years, and other terms and conditions remain open," Wells said.
Huguelet then read a narrative description of the events of the shooting, and Wells said the defense will not dispute the facts at sentencing.
Holt also agreed not to contest a separate charge of fourth-degree assault in which he allegedly kicked a lawyer representing him during a court proceeding in 2002.
After reading Holt his rights to a jury trial and informing him that when he enters a no contest plea, he gives up those rights, Huguelet asked if he understood the rights.
Holt answered he did.
Huguelet accepted the plea and set the sentencing date.
After numerous delays in the Holt proceedings since 2001, the change of plea hearing Monday lasted less than 12 minutes.
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