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Plea Slated In Pa. Slaying Before Custody Hearing

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EASTON, Pa. (AP) — An eastern Pennsylvania woman is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Monday in the slaying of her estranged boyfriend the day before they were due to appear in court on a child custody matter last spring.

Public defender James Connell said in Northampton County Court on Friday that Elizabeth Collazo, 43, would plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for prosecutors dropping their efforts to have her executed for the crime.

First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck said if she doesn’t enter the plea Monday, he will seek capital punishment when she goes on trial Jan. 7.

Police allege that early on March 15, Collazo let herself into the Williams Township home she once shared with Mark Werkheiser, 38, and shot him six times as he slept. The murder came only hours before the two were scheduled to be at a custody hearing over their four children.

Connell said his client is ready to take responsibility for the slaying, but asked that she be able to write her children twice a month “without interference” and that they be allowed to communicate with her or even visit if they wish to do so.

Judge Edward Smith, however, said he was wary of making that part of the plea, since it would force the youngsters to decide whether they want contact with a mother who would have acknowledged having killed their father “in cold blood.”

“That’s putting a lot of pressure on very young children,” Smith said.

Collazo said she was the only person who can answer questions the children have about what happened.

“They’ll never heal if they’re kept away from me,” she said, sobbing.

Under the plea agreement, which comes two weeks after the judge rejected a defense bid to suppress a key piece of evidence, .Collazo would waive future appeals, although she would still be able to petition the governor for a pardon. Smith warned her that, since such a petition would require the support of all five members of the board of pardons, the likelihood of her sentence being commuted was “almost zero.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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