SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A Sevier County man has headed off his first-degree murder trial in the death of his girlfriend's daughter by changing his plea.
According to The Mountain Press, the "best interest" plea entered Friday by Rico Benitez gives him 13 more years in prison. The deal did not require him to admit striking the blow that killed 4-year-old Kayleigh Biggerstaff in 2009. An autopsy revealed the child's colon was ruptured, causing an infection that ultimately killed her.
The plea change to second-degree murder came three days before Benitez was scheduled to go to trial on the more serious charge.
Kayleigh's mother, Kimberly Biggerstaff, accepted a plea bargain last year that sent her to prison for seven years on facilitation charges.