ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A woman pleaded guilty Monday to the Illinois torture killing of a pregnant, developmentally impaired mother who police say was beaten with a plunger handle, burned with a hot glue gun and used for target practice with a BB pistol.
Michelle Riley, 37, pleaded guilty in Madison County, Ill., to first-degree murder in the death of Dorothy Dixon, 29. She faces between 30 and 45 years in prison; a sentencing date has not been set.
Investigators have said Dixon was a mother with a childlike mind and another baby on the way when she was found dead in January 2008 at a house in Alton, Ill., where she had been banished to the basement and given little more than a thin rug and a mattress to call her own on the chilly concrete floor.
Riley's attorney, John Delaney, declined an interview request Monday by The Associated Press because sentencing is still pending.
Four other people, including three teenagers, await trial on first-degree murder charges. Another defendant, Riley's now-14-year-old son, has been sentenced as a juvenile to probation, said Stephanee Smith, a spokeswoman for the Madison County prosecutor's office. Details of his case's resolution were not immediately available Monday.
Investigators put much of the blame on Riley, who they said befriended Dixon but pocketed monthly Social Security checks she got because of her mental disabilities. Dixon saw little, if any, of the money, police say.
Authorities say Dixon ate what she could forage from the refrigerator upstairs, where housemates shot her with BBs, doused her with scalding liquid that peeled away her skin. The also torched what few clothes she had, authorities have said, so she walked around naked.
When her body was found Jan. 31, 2008, clad only in a sweater in the basement, deep-tissue burns covered about one-third of her body -- her face, chest, arms and feet -- and left her severely dehydrated, police have said. Many of her wounds were infected.
A coroner's jury concluded that Dixon died of an accumulation of injuries over time. Her unborn child, delivered stillborn during Dixon's autopsy, died because the mother did, the jury ruled.
Dixon's year-old boy weighed just 15 pounds when taken into state custody after his mom's death, police have said.
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