SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A convicted sex offender serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison pleaded guilty to murdering a young mother outside a Missouri motel 29 years ago, a tragedy compounded by her mother's graveside suicide two years later and her son's 1995 traffic death on what would have been her 36th birthday.
Richard Leroy Walker, 56, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday in Greene County District Court in the July 29, 1982, death of 22-year-old Angela Baskin outside the Villa Inn Motel in Springfield. Under a plea agreement, he will not serve more than 20 years in prison for the crime.
Police had always suspected Walker after witnesses reported seeing Baskin talking to him shortly before her death, but investigators were never able to obtain enough evidence to charge him.
In December 2010, Springfield police detectives interviewed Walker at a prison in Canon City, Colo., where he is serving a life sentence for an unrelated sex crime. During that visit, Walker admitted that he killed Baskin, The Springfield News-Leader reported.
"I'm proud of (the) work of Springfield Police Department in continuing to follow up on this," prosecutor Dan Patterson said. "I'm glad we will ultimately be able to hold Mr. Walker accountable for killing Miss Baskin."
In 1982, Walker ran from officers who spotted him near where Baskin was stabbed. She died a few hours later at a hospital.
At the time, Walker denied having the knife or knowing anything about the killing.
But when he was charged, police said Walker finally described what happened. In their probable cause statement, detectives said Walker told them Baskin approached him and asked for help getting marijuana. He said he couldn't help her and went to his truck, where he began repairing electrical wires with his pocket knife. He said when someone grabbed him from behind and he turned and began stabbing the person.
Walker said he eventually realized it was the woman who had been looking for marijuana. He said he watched her stumble to the ground, bleeding heavily and threw his knife into a field behind the motel. He was walking away from the building when police approached him, police said.
The slaying devastated Baskin's mother, Linda Holt, who committed suicide on her daughter's grave in April 1985, the newspaper reported. Ten years later, on Oct. 11, 1995, Baskin's son, Ricky Baskin, was pulling onto a road and veered into the path of a tractor trailer. His death was not ruled a suicide, but it happened on his mother's birthday. All three are buried near each other at a small cemetery in Carthage, Texas.
Walker is scheduled to be sentenced for the murder charge in August, after which he will be returned to Colorado to continue serving his sentence, Patterson said.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com