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Terminally ill defendant pleads to lesser charge

Updated:
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) _ A man suffering from terminal cancer has pleaded no contest to first-degree manslaughter for allegedly beating, shooting, then burning another man in a freezer last year.

Darrell Mace Patterson entered the plea after reaching an agreement with Pottawatomie County prosecutors, who originally charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Joe Cartner.

His medical condition played a role in the plea negotiations, officials said Wednesday.

Patterson, 54, was accused of hitting Cartner, 49, in the head with a baseball bat and then shooting him in the stomach with a .22-caliber pistol.

Cartner was placed in a freezer that was scorched and left in a trash pile in a rural pasture, authorities said.

Patterson told tenants in his rental house not to touch the freezer in the pasture because there was a body in it, Sheriff Kurt Shirey said after Patterson's Dec. 15 arrest. The tenants thought Patterson was joking, the sheriff said.

Officials believe the murder occurred Nov. 22 in the front yard of the rental house, about one-fourth of a mile from the freezer.

A woman told investigators she saw Cartner's body in the freezer Nov. 30, but she didn't tell authorities because she feared for her life, deputies said.

District Attorney Richard Smothermon asked for a 20-year prison term for Patterson's no contest plea to the amended manslaughter charge.

Two other cases against Patterson for malicious injury to property and domestic abuse and assault and battery were dismissed.
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