GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The six-week murder trial of British celebrity-gambler Marcus Bebb-Jones, scheduled to start April 1, was canceled on Friday when Bebb-Jones pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the "heat of passion."
Bebb-Jones, who is 49 and a British citizen, admitted that he killed his Vietnamese-born wife, Sabrina Bebb-Jones, on Sept. 16, 1997, and dumped her body in a remote section of western Garfield County to the north of Grand Junction, according to a statement from Ninth Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped a charge of harassment related to a fight in the Garfield County Jail involving Bebb-Jones last year.
He is to be sentenced on May 1, and ordinarily would face from 10 to 32 years in prison, Caloia's office reported.
But as part of the plea bargain, according to Caloia, Bebb-Jones will face a sentence up to 20 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Chief Deputy DA Scott Turner said prosecutors expect to recommend that Bebb-Jones receive the maximum sentence.
And according to Caloia's statement, "the victim's family read a statement to the court ... in which they asked the court to sentence Mr. Bebb-Jones to the maximum penalty for his cruelty, lack of remorse and for taking Sabrina from them."
Marcus and Sabrina Bebb-Jones owned the Hotel Melrose in Grand Junction in 1997, when Sabrina disappeared. The two reportedly were experiencing marital discord over his flirtatious behavior with other women as well as financial matters, according to prosecutors.
Investigators alleged that Bebb-Jones went on a gambling spree in Las Vegas, Nev., soon after his wife was reported missing. He later sold the hotel and moved back to England, with the couple's then 4-year-old son, about a year after Sabrina's disappearance.
Sabrina's skull was found by a rancher near Douglas Pass in 2004, but the rest of her body was never located.
Bebb-Jones was arrested five years later following an investigation by the Garfield County Sheriff's Office.
He has been in the Garfield County Jail since February 2011, after being extradited back to the U.S. to face charges.
As part of the extradition agreement with British authorities, prosecutors here agreed to not seek the death penalty in the case.