A man accused in the 2007 slaying of his housemate, whose body sat for more than a month in a van impounded by police during the investigation, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in court Wednesday.
Richard Carelli, 41, entered the plea in San Francisco Superior Court as part of a deal negotiated between prosecutors and his attorneys regarding the Dec. 22, 2007, killing of 49-year-old Leonard Milo Hoskins. Carelli will be sentenced to six years in prison at a hearing March 18.
“We are unable to proceed on the murder charge because the medical examiner could not reach a definitive cause of death,” District Attorney’s Office spokesman Seth Steward said. “The defendant has taken responsibility for his actions. The victim’s family is able to achieve some sense of closure.”
Carelli had been scheduled to go to trial in April, following a mistrial in 2009 in which jurors deadlocked on whether he should be convicted of second-degree murder or acquitted outright.
Carelli allegedly struck Hoskins with a wooden board during an argument outside the Mission Terrace home they shared in the unit block of Lamartine Street. Carelli and his wife, Michelle Pinkerton, lived in an in-law unit in the garage of the home.
During a missing-persons investigation prompted by Hoskins’ concerned family, police questioned Carelli but did not arrest him. The couple then disappeared, and police seized Carelli’s van, placing it in an impound yard.
Police inexplicably failed to open the van until Feb. 1, 2008, when Hoskins’ body was found wrapped in a sleeping bag, blankets, towels and a pillow, with duct tape wound around it. The discovery set off an international manhunt.
An enterprising reporter from San Diego discovered the couple in Baja California in April 2008, leading to their arrest.
Prosecutors had argued that during the struggle, Carelli dragged Hoskins into the in-law unit and fatally smothered him with a pillow.
The medical examiner could only rule the death “probable asphyxia with blunt force trauma.”
“It has always been our position that the medical examiner’s report established that Hoskins suffered a sudden cardiac arrhythmia during the struggle,” said Carelli’s attorney, Rebecca Young of the Public Defender’s Office.
Hiding Hoskins’ body afterward was “an understandable fear reaction from someone who is on felony probation” for receiving stolen property, Young said.
As part of the plea deal, charges will be dropped against Pinkerton, 41, who was charged as an accessory to murder.