Willie Cenales will serve 27 years without parole after admitting that he murdered a woman.
Cenales pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Tammy Brown, admitting that he strangled the Gulfport resident while they engaged in sex.
He continued to strangle her even though she was struggling to breathe, District Attorney Joel Smith’s office said in a news release Tuesday, after the plea before Circuit Court Judge Lisa Dodson.
Brown’s roommate found her body in her bedroom March 2, 2017. Called to the scene, Gulfport police sent evidence they found for DNA testing. Police interviewed a witness who saw Cenales at Brown’s apartment the day before her body was found, the news release says.
Cenales at first denied any involvement in Brown’s death. But a DNA sample police took from Cenales matched DNA evidence found at the crime scene, the news release says.
Video surveillance the police secured from a nearby apartment showed he was alone with Brown from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the night she died.
Another witness, a child neighbor, said she woke to screaming the same night between 10 p.m. and 12 p.m. She heard a woman’s voice scream, “Help,” and a man yell, “Yes,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell and Billy Stage prosecuted the case.
Cenales was prepared to go to trial Tuesday on a charge of first-degree murder, said his attorney, Michael Crosby.
After prospective jurors were seated but before 12 jurors were selected, the district attorney agreed to reduce the charge, which Crosby said allowed Cenales to avoid a life sentence if convicted.