Two weeks into a trial that was supposed to last through May, Aubrey Wadford has pled guilty to second-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend Angela Laskey and admitted to the use of a deadly weapon.
Laskey was found stabbed to death in her Santa Barbara home on October 29, 2014. Her baby daughter awake and untouched in the bedroom right next to the murder scene. The apartment was covered in blood, including a large kitchen knife near Laskey’s lifeless body. Officers testified to finding Wadford within the apartment, blood on his shirt and casually lighting a cigarette.
Wadford was initially charged with first-degree murder — a murder that is intentional and planned — with the possibility of a prison sentence of 25 years to life. But the prosecution reached an agreement with Wadford to change the charge to second-degree murder, or an unplanned murder and a reduced sentenced of 15 years to life in prison. With the added charge of use of deadly weapon, Wadford agreed to a 16 years–to–life in prison sentence. According to the California Penal Code, he will be unable to apply for a reduced sentence below the minimum 16 years.
During the two weeks of the trial, the jury was presented with testimony and evidence detailing the murder. Since the initial charge was for first-degree murder, Deputy District Attorney Hannah Lucy brought in witnesses to show it was a planned attack. Witnesses testified to antagonistic and physical nature of Laskey and Wadford’s relationship. One neighbor testified to hearing shouts exchanged between the two at least twice a month. Laskey’s new boyfriend spoke of instances in which Wadford had placed a threatening note on her windshield and another time when he left noticeable bruises on her arms and legs.
Defense attorney Mindi Boulet tried to paint a different picture in her opening statement, characterizing the murder as a product of rising tensions from an argument fueled by Laskey’s desire to move herself and her daughter away from Wadford. With this narrative, the murder could be considered unplanned.
Ultimately, the prosecution agreed to change the charge to second-degree murder, which resulted in Wadford’s guilty plea.
The formal sentencing will take place on May 26 in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom at the Santa Barbara Superior Court.