Guilty plea in Jenni-Lyn Watson murder case

Steven Pieper in court Tuesday morning / photo: Craig MacDowell

The man accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend last fall pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in county court.

Steven Pieper pleaded guilty to murder Tuesday morning in connection with the death of Jenni-Lyn Watson last November. Pieper was appearing in the courtroom of County Court Judge Anthony Aloi for an arraignment on a charge of second degree murder, a charge which was handed up Monday by an Onondaga County Grand Jury.

At a news conference following the arraignment, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said Pieper confessed to the crime during his grand jury testimony. Peiper TMs attorney, Scott Brenneck, says his client did not want to put his family and Watson's family through the ordeal of a trial. They felt this was the best resolution to the case.

Fitzpatrick took issue with that, saying it was the "mountain of evidence" the sheriff TMs department had collected against Pieper that "wrapped a noose around his neck."

The Grand Jury indictment against Pieper accused him of strangling and suffocating Watson on November 19. Her body was found on November 27 in a park in the Town of Clay after a weeklong search that gained national attention.

The D.A. released new information about the murder. Fitzpatrick says Pieper "did not go over there to kill her" when he went to Jenni-Lyn's home in Clay to discuss their relationship. The DA says Pieper strangled her in a "spontaneous act of rage" when Watson told him the relationship was over.

After Pieper murdered Watson, he put her body in the trunk of his car. As he was leaving the scene he was stopped by a Sheriff's deputy because he did not have a front license plate. The deputy noticed that Pieper was overly cooperative and seemed nervous. According to Fitzpatrick, after Pieper was given a warning by the deputy, Pieper decided he had to dispose of Watson TMs body. That TMs when he hid her at Clay Central Park.

Fitzpatrick says investigators were able to locate Watson TMs cell phone through a wireless signal. He says they know it was at the trash-burning steam plant on Rock Cut Road, but the phone was destroyed before they could find it.

Fitzpatrick says Pieper confessed to the crime when he recently appeared before the Grand Jury. "On that particular day he was consumed with evil and he killed that poor little girl for no other reason than she wanted to move on with her life." Fitzpatrick told reporters.

Pieper will receive a sentence of 23 years to life when sentenced on March 8. He could have received 25 years to life had he been convicted at trial. Fitzpatrick says he will be at Pieper's first parole hearing 23 years from now, where he will argue that Pieper should be kept in prison for the rest of his life.

Original coverage of this story from Monday:

Arraignment is scheduled Tuesday for the Liverpool man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend. Steven Pieper is charged with second degree murder in the death of Jenni-Lyn Watson.

Pieper will be arraigned in Onondaga County Court before Judge Anthony Aloi at 8:45 a.m. That's according to a news release sent to CNY Central from the Onondaga County District Attorney's office.

The DA's Office also says that they know how Watson was killed. The indictment against Pieper says Watson was strangled on November 19, 2010, about a week before her body was found.

The 20-year-old Watson's disappearance set off a desperate search for the Mercyhurst college student, who was home from school visiting family over Thanksgiving at the time.

Her lifeless body was later found in Clay Central Park on November 27. Investigators quickly zeroed in on Watson's former boyfriend, 21-year-old Steven Pieper of Clay. They say he was the last one to see her alive.

Onondaga County D.A. Bill Fitzpatrick says Pieper left his own cell phone at her home the day she was killed.

The DA's Office says they will not comment further on the case until after Pieper's arraignment Tuesday morning.