Death Penalty Option Dismissed for Suspect Accused in Homicide of 92-Year-Old

The 26-year-old was previously charged with first-degree murder with a special circumstance in the death of an elderly woman.

A man accused of killing a 92-year-old woman found in her National City apartment is no longer eligible to face the death penalty after he reached a plea deal on Thursday, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. He will still serve time in prison. 

Peter Thao, 26, was charged with first-degree murder with a special circumstance in the death of Maria Rivera, 92. He pleaded not guilty through an attorney in November of 2016.

A spokesperson from the District Attorney's office told NBC 7 in November the charge, first-degree murder with a special circumstance of committing a murder in the commission of a qualifying felony - in this case, residential burglary - made Thao eligible for either life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

On Thursday, Thao pleaded guilty to one count of murder and one count of residential burglary. Because of his change of plea, the special circumstance which made Thao eligible for the death penalty was dismissed, Prosecutor C.J. Mody said.

National City Police said they found Rivera in her D Street apartment on Oct. 22, 2016.

When officers began investigating, they determined the apartment had been burglarized prior to Rivera's death.

Thao was arrested and charged in her death after an investigation.

Police declined to comment on what evidence linked Thao to the crime but said they found the evidence inside his home. They also confiscated his car.

Authorities do not believe there are any outstanding suspects, but the investigation is ongoing.

The homicide is believed to be random.

Thao will be sentenced 31 years to life on August 16 as a result of his plea deal, according to Mody.

NBC 7 San Diego has reached out to Thao's defense attorney for comment.

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