(CBS/WTVH) Steven Pieper pleaded guilty Tuesday in Onondaga County Court in Syracuse, N.Y. to second-degree murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, college freshman Jenni-Lyn Watson.
The 21-year-old Pieper was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on second degree murder charges, but instead it was announced that a plea deal had been struck.
His defense attorney, Scott Brenneck, says Pieper wanted to spare his family and Jenni-Lyn's family the ordeal of a trial, CBS affiliate WTVH reported.
But Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says Pieper was overwhelmed by the "mountain of evidence" the sheriff's department had collected against Pieper that "wrapped a noose around his neck," according to the station.
Pieper also reportedly confessed to the crime in detail during his grand jury testimony. He told the grand jury that after strangling 20-year-old Jenni-Lyn to death in her parents' home on November 19, he carried her out to his car and put her body in the trunk in broad daylight. As he was leaving the scene he was stopped by a Sheriff's deputy because he did not have a front license plate, WTVH reported.
The deputy did not discover Jenni-Lyn's body but it was enough of a close call to scare Pieper into dumping her body at a nearby park, in a swampy wooded area, attempting to cover it with vegetation, according to The Syracuse Post-Standard.
Jenni-Lyn was home for Thanksgiving when she was murdered.
Searchers found her body eight days later, and Pieper was arrested shortly after.
Under the plea deal Pieper will be sentenced to 23 years to life in prison on March 8, as opposed to the 25 to life he would have received if convicted by a jury.
Fitzpatrick told reporters that he planned to be at Pieper's parole hearing in 23 years to argue that he should be kept in prison for the rest of his life.