Mark Erickson

A man accused of gunning down another man inside a crowded restaurant in Beaver faces up to 20 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Wednesday.

Mark Elden Erickson, 31, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the slaying of Timothy McEnaney. McEnaney, 32, was having dinner with Erickson's ex-wife inside the crowded Timberline Inn restaurant in Beaver on Dec. 2 when Erickson walked in and opened fire. Erickson's children were outside waiting in a car at the time of the slaying.

The plea deal was struck as Erickson's preliminary hearing was under way in 5th District Court on July 10.

"He did not want to have his ex-wife have to testify at trial; he didn't want to have his children testify at trial. He didn't want to drag it out and have the victim's family suffer. We felt this would be in the best interests of everybody," said Aric Cramer, Erickson's defense attorney.

In exchange for his plea, Beaver County prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty or ask for life without parole, Cramer said.

"Clearly he has to pay the price, and that will be the vast majority of his life," Cramer told the Deseret News on Monday. "He would like the opportunity to some day earn his way to parole."

McEnaney's family plans to speak at Erickson's sentencing. Voicing her own opinion, McEnaney's cousin, Gina, wrote in an e-mail to the Deseret News that she felt the death penalty was "the only fair justice in a crime as horrible as this."

"And knowing that some sort of plea bargain was made simply to guarantee that Mark would stay behind bars quite honestly turns my stomach, but he can sit behind bars day in and day out thinking and re-thinking about the horrible sin he committed, asking for the Lord's forgiveness," she wrote. "Because that's all he has now ... time."

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