Passion of Christ prompted strangler's confession

A man who said Mel Gibson's film The Passion Of The Christ prompted him to confess to strangling his girlfriend has pleaded guilty to murder.

“I take full responsibility for my actions, and I plead guilty,” Dan Leach told Texas State District Judge Brady Elliott.

Despite the confession, Leach had originally pleaded not guilty, and his murder trial had begun on Tuesday with jury selection.

After he switched his plea yesterday, the jury immediately began hearing the punishment phase of the trial. He faces from five years to life in prison.

Ashley Nicole Wilson, 19, was found dead in her flat in Richmond, Texas, in January. It appeared she had hanged herself, and the Harris County medical examiner’s office ruled the death a suicide.

Two months later Leach, 21, came forward after, he said, seeing Gibson’s movie depicting the last hours of Jesus.

Police said Leach strangled Wilson because she was pregnant with his child and he wanted nothing to do with the mother or the unborn baby. Although she believed she was pregnant, an autopsy showed no evidence of pregnancy, authorities have said.

Leach described an elaborate plan to make the death look like a suicide, officers said.

He said he told Wilson to write him a letter describing everything that was bad in her life, then strangled her with the cord from her high school graduation gown, police said.

The cord was wrapped around her neck and tied to the headboard of a bed, and police interpreted the letter as a suicide note.

Prosecutors today urged jurors to sentence Leach to life.

“It’s time to think of Ashley Wilson and the life she was deprived of,” prosecutor Greg Gilleland said.

“Give a life sentence to Dan Leach to keep him off the streets.”

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