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Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

Judge accepts plea

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 08:04 PM

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Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. accepted an open plea Friday from an accomplice in a 2011 home invasion that left Michael Pfeifer of Masaryktown dead.

Prosecutor Pete Magrino said on Aug. 16, 2011, Robert Willoughby, now 25, entered Pfeifer's residence at 174 Grand Ave. with the intention to steal property from him. Willoughby carried a semi-automatic handgun. Richard D. Harris, a co-defendant, wielded an AK-47, and Nicholas Trammell, the third co-defendant, brought a shotgun with him.

The trio ordered Pfeifer and his roommate, Cliff Kearney, down on the floor. When Willoughby was in another part of the house, a physical altercation broke out, and Harris and Trammell first hit Pfeifer and Kearney with their long guns then fired multiple times. Pfeifer died at his house, and the medical examiner found his official cause of death from multiple gunshot wounds.

Willoughby was arrested less than two weeks after the attack, identified in a lineup and booked on charges of first-degree murder, home invasion and possession and assault with a firearm.

DNA evidence left at the scene identified Harris, and Trammell — who allegedly buried the firearms — were picked up in Pasco County the same week.

In custody, Willoughby said he was involved in the crime.

Merritt accepted a plea deal that will give Willoughby a 10 year sentence for second-degree murder with a firearm. Willoughby still faces sentencing for the other two charges, and will return to court from prison at a later date. The co-defendants will pay restitutions for the cost of Pfeifer's funeral.

Willoughby's plea stipulates he must testify if called upon to do so in his co-defendant's cases.

Harris, who is out on bail, has a pre-trial hearing set for Feb. 6.

Trammell is set to appear in court on Jan. 16. (352) 544-5283

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