James Alan Head never admitted to law officers that he had killed Donald Craig Caducci the night of Dec. 17, 2002.
But Friday morning, Head, 44, accepted a plea deal that likely will send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Circuit Judge Ric A. Howard sentenced Head to a 40-year prison term after accepting his no contest plea to second-degree murder with a firearm. Head must serve at least 25 years of that sentence.
He also received a concurrent 15-year sentence with a three-year minimum-mandatory requirement for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
It was just one of numerous no-contest pleas Head entered Friday, bringing to a close multiple cases the former Crystal River resident had stacked against him for a string of serious crimes he was accused of committing in 2002.
"The probability of Mr. Head rejoining society is very unlikely," Assistant State Attorney Don Scaglione said after the hearing.
By foregoing a trial, Head escaped a potential death sentence that could have been levied if a jury had found him guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors knocked the charge down to second-degree murder as part of the plea negotiations.
The plea was welcomed by prosecutors and law enforcement authorities. Scaglione said it took away the uncertainty that comes with a trial.
The evidence, while extensive, was mostly circumstantial. Authorities determined Head used a shotgun that belonged to his live-in girlfriend to shoot Caducci, 48, in a wooded area at the end of S Bassett Drive in Homosassa.
They also found possible specks of blood and a possible piece of flesh on the outside of Head's car, a Chevrolet Cavalier. The vehicle smelled of bleach, as though it had just been thoroughly washed.
The most incriminating information came from Head's own words after the shooting. When talking with authorities, he tried to pin the crime on a man from Oregon. But in jail, he confessed his guilt to both his mother and his girlfriend on taped phone conversations, court records showed.
For prosecutors, that meant key testimony would have to be provided by two of Head's own family members, a risky strategy for trial. They also had to contend with Head's persistent drug habit.
With the plea, Head is ensured a lengthy, if not lifelong, prison stay, and the community avoids an extensive trial and appeals process, Scaglione said. The Citrus County Sheriff's Office and Crystal River Police Department approved of the plea agreement.
"This gives some finality to the family," he said. "This gives some finality to law enforcement."
Head, who was represented by attorney Charles Vaughn, also was sentenced for events surrounding other arrests. On Dec. 22, 2002, Head tried to get a forged prescription for methadone filled at the Walgreens pharmacy at 301 U.S. 19 in Crystal River, according to police.
He was caught. While being questioned by a Crystal River police officer, Head pulled a handgun. A struggle with the officer ensued, the weapon went off and a bullet narrowly missed the officer before striking the ceiling.
Authorities charged Head with attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attempting to acquire a controlled substance.
Those charges and other drug charges from December 2002 landed him additional, concurrent prison time Friday totaling no more than 40 years.
_ Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 860-7303 or cjenkinssptimes.com.