UKIAH — Almost 14 years after Michael Williamson was brutally beaten to death in his parents' Ukiah home, his killer has pleaded guilty to murder and arson.
Jerred Hernandez, 32, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to using a dangerous weapon — a metal baseball bat — to kill Williamson, an acquaintance.
He will serve 32 years to life in prison as a condition of the plea agreement, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman said during the plea hearing.
Two other charges, burglary and a special allegation that Hernandez killed Williamson during a robbery, were dismissed as a part of the agreement. Added to murder, those charges carry a sentence of life without parole, said Hernandez' attorney, Mendocino County Public Defender Linda Thompson.
District Attorney David Eyster said the Williamson family is in agreement with the plea bargain.
They did not attend Tuesday's hearing. Williamson's parents previously said they hold no bitterness toward Hernandez and they hope he finds Jesus. Williamson's mother died last year, Eyster said.
According to testimony at Hernandez's preliminary hearing last year, Williamson, 44, was a recovering substance abuser who had been attempting to mentor Hernandez, then a troubled teen who lived around the corner.
On the night of Aug. 2, 2000, Hernandez and a friend showed up late at Williamson's home, expecting to barbecue chicken. Williamson's parents were vacationing in Idaho and Oregon at the time.
Hernandez reportedly became angry when Williamson turned him away. The prosecution contended he returned to the house, beat Williamson multiple times in the head with the baseball bat, then ransacked the home and started a fire to cover his tracks. Jewelry, credit cards and personal checks belonging to Williamson's parents were missing from the home, police said.
Hernandez fled to Mexico after the killing. He was captured and returned to Ukiah in May 2013.
Prior to Tuesday's plea agreement, Hernandez had entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Thompson said her client suffers from a mental illness.
But psychiatric evaluations apparently determined he did not qualify for an insanity defense, Eyster said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.