RICHMOND, Va. -- The children of a man murdered in a Richmond recovery house opposed a plea deal brokered by the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's Office with their father's killer. But a plea deal is what the killer was offered.
Robert Pulling suffered from schizophrenia and was convicted of possession of a firearm after being involuntarily committed and trespassing. As part of a sentencing agreement, Pulling went to live at a recovery house run by the Real Life program, even though his family said he did not have a substance abuse problem.
In November 2021, Pulling was found inside the home with his hands, feet, and neck tied up, with multiple stab wounds to his chest, according to a police affidavit.
House manager Kevin Rice was later arrested for Pulling's murder.
Chelchasity Pulling said she cannot escape nightmares about her father's murder.
"Sometimes when I go to sleep I'll see my dad's murder after hearing the details," Chelchasity said.
She thought Rice's first-degree murder trial, scheduled to begin next week, would bring her comfort. But prosecutors instead decided to offer Rice a plea agreement on a lesser charge.
Rice accepted the deal and Chelchasity was left once again tossing and turning.
"We would have at least been able to get peace from [a trial], but now it just doesn't feel like we are getting peace," Chelchasity said.
Rice, the house manager at a Real Life recovery house in Richmond, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and abduction for monetary benefit.
Police said Kevin Rice murdered Robert Pulling in order to steal his bank card.
Rice, and the Real Life recovery program where the pair lived, were the subject of multiple CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigations.
Pulling's family questioned why Rice was ever put in charge of the recovery house when he already had a lengthy criminal record.
The plea puts Rice behind bars for 30 years, but Chelchasity and her brother wanted prosecutors to take the case to trial on the first-degree murder charge.
"I told them straight up that it's not fair," Chelchasity said.
"It's understandable a victim's family could be upset in a situation like this," CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said.
Still, Stone said there are very legitimate reasons why prosecutors may have gone forward with the plea deal.
"The benefit to a prosecutor in negotiating a plea is that the defendant gives up his right to appeal and agrees that he's guilty and that's a significant benefit to a prosecutor," Stone said.
And, he said it's the prosecutor's decision to make.
"At the end of the day this is the prosecutor's decision because it's the Commonwealth of Virginia versus an individual for a criminal violation of the Virginia code," Stone said.
CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit asked Supervising Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond Brooke Petit about her decision to go forward with the plea deal.
"No sentence a court can impose will ever make up for the tragic loss of Robert Pulling’s life," Petit wrote in an emailed response. "In this case, the 43-year-old defendant agreed to an active term of 30 years. This is a significant, above guidelines sentence that avoids the risks of trials and unpredictable juries. Most importantly, the plea will protect the community until Rice is in his seventies. "
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