BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Paul Aaron Ross has accepted a plea deal in his murder retrial ahead of the jury announcing a verdict.
Ross will reportedly be pleading nolo contendere to 3rd degree homicide. Nolo contendere is a plea by which a defendant in a criminal prosecution accepts conviction as though a guilty plea had been entered but does not admit guilt.
Originally facing the death penalty, he will now face possible sentencing of 20-40 years imprisonment for the murder charge.
The plea is no contest and also includes charges of aggravated assault, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and unlawful restraint. His total sentence could face up to 85 years imprisonment.
Ross’s defense has asked the court to accept a plea of 42-84 years and credit for time served. The judge has reportedly accepted these pleas. Any verdict reached by the jury will be nullified.
Ross was previously convicted on murder charges in the 2004 death of Tina Sabrina Miller. He was granted a retrial in 2011 after defense attorneys appealed to the State Superior Court saying Ross didn’t receive a fair trial in 2005.
“I think this is good for everybody,” said Defense Attorney Thomas Dickey. “Number one, my client obviously avoids possibly being faced with the death penalty. He also avoids being faced with a life imprisonment without parole. And probably most importantly is it brings some finality to the victim’s family.”
In his closing arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Richard Consiglio said, “Tina Miller’s soul has been crying out for justice for the last 17 years.”
“What we didn’t want is for this animal to get off in any way, shape or form, the family asked us to take this agreement, we did what they wanted, they thought it was the right thing to do,” said Consiglio.
In a statement to WTAJ, the Miller family said they were looking for finality and that is what they received.
“They always use the word ‘closure’, and I think this actually gave it to them, I think that’s why they didn’t want to wait for the jury’s verdict, they wanted to go ahead and solve it,” said Consiglio.
Miller’s family said this was a way for Ross to face a life behind bars, but also give him the opportunity to one day rehabilitate himself.
Both sides thank the jury for their service.