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Vermont man pleads no contest in 2017 death of girlfriend

September 10, 2021 GMT

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A 62-year-old Vermont man has pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in the 2017 strangulation death of his girlfriend in their Rutland home.

The Thursday plea by Randal S. Johnson was part of an agreement under which he would be sentenced to nine years in prison for the death of 58-year-old Trina Fitzgerald.

He will not be sentenced until the Department of Corrections conducts a pre-sentence investigation. He would be given credit for the four years he has spent in prison since his arrest following Fitzgerald’s Aug. 27, 2017, death.

Johnson did not speak during the Thursday hearing except to agree that he wanted to resolve the case and to enter the no-contest plea.

The Rutland Herald reports that Johnson was not required to admit to the facts of the case because he was pleading no contest. But defense attorney Dan Maguire stipulated there was a factual basis to support the charge.

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Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy said her office would wait until Johnson was sentenced to explain the reason for the agreement with Johnson.

“From the state’s perspective it was important that Mr. Johnson be convicted of second-degree murder for his actions on August 27, 2017 that ended Trina Fitzgerald’s life,” she said.