A man accused of drowning his neighbor in her bathtub almost 24 years ago has pleaded guilty to a charge of malice murder

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PERRY, Ga. (AP) — A man accused of drowning his neighbor in her bathtub almost 24 years ago has pleaded guilty to a charge of malice murder.

The Telegraph reports Homer Ridley III, 48, pleaded guilty Friday before Chief Judge Rucker Smith of the Superior Court of the Southwestern Judicial District. He then sentenced Ridley to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentence was part of a negotiated plea that took the death penalty off the table.

Ridley was indicted in May 2015 on one count of malice murder and two counts of felony murder in the slaying of 20-year-old Summer Gleaton of Warner Robins. Gleaton’s partially clad body was found in the bathtub of her home on Dec. 1, 1994 by her mother. Her wrists and ankles were bound.

Her 6-month-old child was in the home but was not harmed.

Gleaton had been arguing with her boyfriend earlier that day and went to Ridley’s residence next door to call for help. The boyfriend initially was a suspect but was cleared. Ridley also was suspected at the time, but police didn’t have enough evidence to move forward with charges.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig noted Friday that he had DNA and other evidence had the case gone to trial, including green shoelaces used to bind Gleaton and sweatpants used to strangle her. Both matched Ridley’s DNA profile, Hartwig said.

“We felt for a long time — law enforcement and our office — that if the killer was not wearing gloves and actually tied those shoelaces with his bare hands, that there was bound to be some DNA on there once the technology got to the point where they could extract it or recover it, and ultimately, we got to that point,” Hartwig told news media after the hearing.

Gleaton’s mother and daughter, who were in the courtroom, did not give testimony about the crime’s impact on them.

Ridley also did not make a statement when given the opportunity by the judge. His family members were in the courtroom.

Earlier Friday, Ridley also pleaded guilty to a 1988 rape in which he was serving a life sentence until January of this year when he won the right to a new trial. He was transferred from a state prison to Houston County to await trial. Ridley entered a “best interest plea” on the rape, which means he was not admitting guilt but thought the plea was in his best interest.

Superior Court Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams sentenced Ridley to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the rape.

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Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com