Pasco Murder Suspect Takes Plea Bargain - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Pasco Murder Suspect Takes Plea Bargain

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PASCO, Wash. - The trial for a Pasco man accused of murder stops short.

60-year-old Charlie Harper was facing the possibility of life without parole. Lawyers were gearing up for the trial. But Harper had a change of heart.

Listening to Harper in court Wednesday it seemed like he just wanted it over with. Back in October, Harper lived just down the street from 132 S. Hugo Avenue. He and the man who lived there got into a fight. The man had a heart attack, and died. It's been a painful experience for everyone involved.

As Charlie Harper walked into court it appeared everything was a go to move on with murder charges for the death of 65-year-old Cleveland Everhart. But you may not remember this is round two. Lawyers ran into snags during jury selection. The court issued a mistrial, and Harper decided he'd rather make a deal.

"You understand where we're going with this?" said Judge Robert Swisher, Benton Franklin Superior Court.    

"Yes," said Harper.   

"You're in agreement with it?" said Swisher.  

"Yes," Harper replied.    

Lawyers worked out a bargain. And Wednesday Harper changed his plea.

"How do you plea?" Swisher asked. 

 "Guilty," Harper said.   

It's a relief to prosecutors. The case was no average murder trial. The victim's massive heart problems contributed to his death.   And Harper had two prior felony convictions, under Washington law strike three meant Harper faced the possibility of life without parole.

"People don't want to put people in prison, especially for unintentional murder, like this kind of case. So that was my concern, we would walk away with nothing, as opposed to a life sentence which was a possibility of course," said Steve Lowe, Franklin County Prosecutor.    

But even though it won't happen. Harper's defense would've liked to prove his innocence.

"There are certain cases every trial lawyer goes to their grave thinking, What would've happened had I tried this case? This is one of those cases for me," said Carl Sonderman, Harper's Defense Attorney.    

Here's the deal Harper got for changing his plea. Prosecutors lowered charges to 3rd degree assault. But he will still serve seven and a half years in prison. And once he's out he can't come back to the Tri-Cities for up to two years.