Twice convicted, Ohio man admits killing wife

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- A former undertaker who was twice convicted of killing his wife using poison has pleaded guilty to charges in an agreement with prosecutors to avoid a third trial.

Robert Girts, 60, pleaded guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter and insurance fraud. He read a statement describing how he put cyanide in his wife's salt shaker to kill her in 1992.

Twice since 1992, juries in Cleveland found Girts guilty of aggravated murder. Both convictions were overturned over prosecution errors and the appeals court ordered new trials.

Girts was sentenced to six to 30 years in prison but will get credit for more than 15 years he previously served.

Bettianne Jones, whose late husband, Barry, was the victim's brother, told the judge she was there to speak for Diane.

"I want people to see she was a person," Jones said, holding up a photograph of Diane. "She was a caring, loving person and she deserved a lot more than what she did get. Her life was taken so abruptly. She's not 'the victim' or a case number. She was a person."

Anna Faraglia, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said Girts' statement removes any suggestion of Diane committing suicide, which was suggested in Girts' two trials.

"This woman was murdered," she said. "The soul of Diane Girts after 21 years can finally rest in peace."

Prosecutors and Girts' defense attorneys agreed on a recommended sentence of six to 30 years in prison with Girts given credit for time served. The judge followed the recommendation, leaving it up to the Ohio Parole Board to determine how much time Girts will spend in prison.

Prosecutor Timothy McGinty believes Girts' plea is a just outcome to the long case.

"Even if we won another murder conviction and the verdict was upheld, this killer might have been out faster than he will be with this plea, which carries an excellent probability of an additional 14 years in prison," McGinty said in a news release.

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