Burlington man admits stabbing secret lover - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington man admits stabbing secret lover

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A somber Daniel Whalon, 28, walked into a Burlington courtroom Friday, prepared to plead guilty to killing his secret lover three years after the crime.

Vt. Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson asked, "Is your plea on the charge of second-degree murder of Ralph Bell by stabbing him with a knife guilty or not guilty?"

"Guilty," Whalon replied.

Whalon stabbed Ralph Bell, 54, in the neck and chest in October 2011 on a railroad bridge between Winooski and Burlington. Whalon allegedly told detectives he stabbed his neighbor in self-defense. The two men were entangled in a secret sexual relationship and Whalon claims Bell became jealous when he started dating a woman.

"My purpose in doing this is to make sure the record reflects that Mr. Whalon was aware of the risk of death or great bodily harm to Mr. Bell when he stabbed him, and nevertheless ignored that risk," Chittenden County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Willison said.

Prosecutors say Whalon confessed to the crime six months ago. But a judge tossed his confession, saying police violated Whalon's Miranda rights. Prosecutors believed they still had enough evidence for a conviction.

The state says Whalon tried to cover up the murder, leaving a forged note on Bell's backdoor claiming Bell had gone out of town. Prosecutors say Whalon also confided in other inmates about the fake note and the murder.

"The note was analyzed by the Burlington Police Department and a fingerprint recovered from that note matched Mr. Whalon's fingerprint and Mr. Whalon admitted ... that he had placed the note on Mr. Bell's door," Willison said.

The Burlington man now faces 25 years to life behind bars. Whalon's lawyer says he will push for less jail time, asking for 15 years in prison and life on probation.

Chittenden County Deputy Prosecutor Paul Finnerty says the state is pleased Whalon is fessing up to the murder, but they will still push for the maximum sentence.

"These are the most serious cases we have in Vermont," Finnerty said. "So, it's hard to say that a relatively short period of time in jail and then probation supervision is appropriate."

The courtroom was nearly empty when Whalon pleaded guilty; no friends or family for either the defendant or the victim were there.

Whalon will be sentenced June 23.

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