VERNAL — A Vernal man has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in the beating and strangulation death of his roommate.
Christopher Codi Andersen, 29, was initially charged in 8th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of Christopher Alan Miller. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
Andersen admitted that he recklessly caused Miller's death by bludgeoning him with a ceramic statue and strangling him during a drunken fight on July 5, 2013, inside the Vernal apartment they were sharing.
"Although the exact time of death is uncertain, the victim died either immediately or within the next few hours as a result of the injuries inflicted by the defendant," Uintah County prosecutor Mike Drechsel said. "The defendant did not seek out any attention, medical or otherwise, for the victim."
When Judge Ed Petersen asked Andersen whether those facts were accurate, Andersen replied: "The guy tried to stab me, your honor, but yes, that's pretty much what happened."
Drechsel, however, told the court that investigators did not find any defensive wounds on Andersen's body to corroborate his account of what happened.
A witness told investigators that Miller and Andersen were "already intoxicated" on July 5, 2013, when he picked them up and drove them to liquor stores in Vernal and later in Rangely, Colorado. He then drove them back to Vernal, where the pair began fighting inside the truck, court records state.
The man told investigators he dropped the bickering roommates off at their apartment and left. The following morning Andersen called 911 to report that the apartment had been burglarized and Miller was dead.
Miller, 52, had obvious injuries to his face, head, neck, left arm and shoulder that appeared to have been inflicted with a broken ceramic statue found in the apartment, charging documents state. Investigators said they saw no blood on the clothes Andersen was wearing, but noted "several superficial scratches on his forearm and forehead."
Andersen was allowed to leave the apartment, but was arrested two days later for failing to register as a sex offender.
Investigators later spoke with a man who said Andersen had expressed fears that he "may be going back to prison" after Miller's death. Andersen told the man he and Miller were "getting drunk" when the older man "got a little violent with him," the charges state.
Andersen told his friend he didn't want to hurt Miller, "so he grabbed the guy and wrestled him to the ground and put him in a choke hold."
Drechsel said in court that Miller's family did not oppose the deal that allowed Andersen to plead guilty to a manslaughter charge. Andersen remains in the Uintah County Jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 14.