VIRGINIA CITY - A Lockwood man pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the October 2009 beating death of Eileen Pruitt.
A shackled and handcuffed Ryan Bonnett, 23, appeared before First Judicial District Court Judge Jim Wilson in Virginia City.
In exchange for the plea, Storey County Assistant District Attorney Laura Grant dropped a charge of first degree murder and has agreed to ask for a sentence of 10 to 25 years in prison. Second-degree murder convictions can also carry a sentence of 10 to life.
Bonnett is accused of beating Pruitt to death on the streets of Rainbow Bend in Lockwood after the two strangers crossed paths and had a heated exchange.
According to court testimony, Pruitt was walking her dog when Bonnett, grossly intoxicated, asked for a cigarette. When Pruitt declined Bonnett's request, he became enraged, beating and stomping the 47-year-old woman while Bonnett's girlfriend ran to get her father, Storey County Commissioner Bob Kershaw, to intervene.
By the time Kershaw pulled Bonnett off Pruitt, the woman was fatally wounded and motionless in the street. She died at the hospital.
A pathologist testified during Bonnett's preliminary hearing that Pruitt sustained 15 rib fractures, a fractured eye socket, a bruised heart, hemorrhaging in the abdomen, kidney, diaphragm and brain, and she had an imprint on her face and forehead that looked like "the sole of a shoe."
Pruitt's elderly father, Ray Pruitt, said he agreed with the plea bargain.
Her sister, who asked that her name not be used, said she felt the same.
"I think that would be the correct charge, but I don't believe 10 years is enough," she said. "And I don't believe that he can't remember."
In accepting Bonnett's plea, Judge Wilson asked Bonnett what he did that led him to plead guilty.
After conferring briefly with his attorney, Bonnett remained seated and State Public Defender Diane Crow stood, saying her client doesn't remember the incident.
"He's gone over the police reports and witness statements and he understands what they say, and he agrees that's probably what happened, but he has no recollection of his actions that night," said Crow.
Assistant DA Grant said the plea came about after reviewing the facts and realizing the elements needed to prove first-degree were not there.
She said in asking for a definite term in prison of 10-25 years, she was trying to ensure Bonnett "expires his term."
Pruitt's longtime friend, Dennis Hook of Daly City, Calif., said in a number of e-mails to the Nevada Appeal that he was unhappy with the plea bargain.
"The injuries Eileen suffered were consistent with a drop from a tall building or being hit by a truck at fairly moderate speed. She was beyond 'beaten,' as most of her internal organs were destroyed by Ryan Bonnett with just 2 boots and 2 fists," said Hook in one e-mail.
"A plea bargain will not stop me being a voice for Eileen and letting the world know what this deranged man did to her," he said in another.
Bonnett remains in the Storey County Jail. He will be sentenced on Feb. 18.
Newly elected Storey County District Attorney Bill Maddox takes office in January and will handle the sentencing hearing.