A man accused of killing a maintenance worker at a rest stop along Interstate-80 in eastern Iowa has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Thirty-two-year-old Peter Riggs of Columbus, Nebraska, was facing a first-degree murder charge and life in prison for shooting and killing a 46-year-old janitor in the men’s bathroom at the I-80 rest stop near Victor, Iowa.
Riggs today was sentenced to 50 years in prison and he’ll have to serve at least 35 years before he can apply for parole. Lou McMeen, the assistant Iowa County Attorney, says the plea deal had the “full consent” of the prosecution team and the family of the murder victim, who won’t have to sit through a trial.
“I think it’s a good result for the family,” McMeen says. “…We have a fixed result. We know that he’s going to spend 35 years in prison.”
The public defender who was representing Riggs had his client undergo two mental evaluations, one of which suggested Riggs suffers from a mental disorder characterized by mood swings and an inability to comprehend reality. The other evaluator didn’t come to that conclusion.
The rest stop murder happened on May 29, 2010. The assistant county attorney says if the case had gone to trial, it would have been the fifth murder trial in the last year and a half in Iowa County.
“After a while you get a little bit shell-shocked,” McMeen says. “…That (the murder) happened at a rest area, I have heard people make comments that they don’t go to rest areas as much as they used to.”
The judge in this case had ruled a video-taped confession couldn’t be used either because it’s not clear if Riggs understood his rights. Riggs also wrote at least four letters to court officials, admitting his guilt, the judge ruled those letters count not be used against him at trial either.
Kristen McAdam, the widow of the man Riggs shot to death, read a “victim impact statement” in court just before the sentencing.