FORT WAYNE, IND. – An Indiana man pleaded guilty Friday to bludgeoning a 9-year-old girl to death before dismembering her body, calmly describing the details of his crimes to a judge while the girl's parents and others watched in a hushed courtroom.
Michael Plumadore also pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse and removing a dead body from the scene in the Dec. 22 death of Aliahna Maroney-Lemmon at a Fort Wayne trailer park. He'll be sentenced June 18 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Plumadore's attorneys and prosecutors had told the judge last week they were ready for his trial. But defense attorney Anthony Churchward told the judge Friday they agreed to the guilty pleas after prosecutors indicated they would ask for the death penalty if Plumadore was convicted.
Plumadore, who relatives described as a trusted family friend who helped care for Aliahna's dying grandfather at the trailer park where the family lived, had been looking after the girl and her 6-year-old sisters because their mother was sick. Authorities said Aliahna had been dead for more than 24 hours before she was reported missing two days before Christmas. The other girls weren't harmed.
When asked Friday by Allen Superior Court John Surbeck what he had done, Plumadore responded that he "repeatedly struck Aliahna in the head with a brick" and that she died as a result.
Responding to the charge of abuse of a corpse, Plumadore said, "I cut Aliahna up with a hacksaw."
Surbeck asked what happened next.
"I put parts in my freezer and took the rest down to the Marathon station and put them in a Dumpster," Plumadore said.
Assistant Prosecutor Steve Godfrey asked if those actions were intended to hamper any investigation, and Plumadore replied simply: "Yes, sir."
Aliahna's mother and stepfather sat in in the front row with eight other family members and friends. Two women sat behind Aliahna's mother, Tarah Souders, with their hands on her shoulders for much of the 45-minute sentencing. They were among about 50 people in the courtroom.
Godfrey declined to comment after the hearing and the family left the court without speaking to reporters.
Aliahna's step-grandfather, David Story, told The Associated Press from Jacksonville, Fla., that he was pleased.
"A needle in the arm is too humane for him," Story said. "I'm glad there's finally some justice for her. In the end, it will never end. But it does give me some peace of mind."