BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — A Bremerton man accused of killing his girlfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge as his trial proceedings began.

The Kitsap Sun reports 59-year-old Richard Heller pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree manslaughter after the first-degree murder trial in a Kitsap County court was underway.

Heller was accused of strangling 66-year-old Perleen Bode in January 2017. He told Bremerton police that she had fallen. Investigators initially believed Bode had died from chronic lung disease and congestive heart failure.

Two autopsies were conducted, finding she died of a broken neck and had severe spinal cord injuries. According to court documents, the second examination discovered evidence of manual strangulation.

Heller is scheduled to be sentenced July 23. Prosecutors say they will seek a 70-month sentence.

___

Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/