STROUDSBURG -- There was a surprise guilty plea Monday morning in Monroe County as a murder trial was about to begin.
Rico Herbert of Stroudsburg pleaded guilty to third degree murder and other charges in Monroe County court.
More than two years after his arrest, Rico Herbert pleaded guilty to third degree murder and other charges in Monroe County. Herbert admits killing 87-year old Joseph DeVivo in 2012.
The plea came just as jury selection for Herbert’s trial was about to start. DeVivo’s family was at the courthouse and happy Herbert admitted his guilt.
“It was a horrible ordeal for our family to live through for more than two years we were waiting for this nightmare to end. We finally have closure,” said the victim’s son Joseph A. DeVivo.
Herbert’s attorneys say their client has been thinking about calling off the trial for quite some time, but he didn’t take responsibility until just now.
"He showed some remorse I mean this is not a person hard of heart or callous, I think it was an unfortunate set of circumstance that led him to where he is today,” said defense attorney Tom Sundmaker.
Back in 2012 Herbert was charged with killing DeVivo, a retired school teacher in Stroudsburg. Herbert now admits he smothered DeVivo, took off with DeVivo’s car and wallet and drove his body to South Carolina where he dumped it. Prosecutors say Herbert’s plea spares the DeVivo family from gruesome testimony.
"Oh absolutely, the reliving of this, there would have been some very graphic evidence, one of the counts being abuse of a corpse,” said Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso.
The victim’s family members listened to OnStar tapes in court. On the recording Herbert pretended to be DeVivo before he dumped the body.
Now DeVivo’s three children say they’re closing this door and moving forward – keeping the memory of their father alive and have established a scholarship fund in his name.
Their friends and family have helped them through the past two years.
"We are thankful to the community for the love and support they have shown us during this difficult time.,” said DeVivo.
Herbert will spend 31 to 62 years in a state correctional facility.