- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - A man charged with the rape and strangulation death of his 17-year-old stepdaughter has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown reports (http://bit.ly/1Ntmemg ) 36-year-old Ernie Benjamin Chase pleaded guilty Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court. He also entered an Alford plea to second-degree rape, meaning he didn’t admit guilt but acknowledged there’s enough evidence for a conviction.

Melissa Skye Collins was reported missing by her mother May 20. Court records show Collins’ body was later found that day inside her home under a pile of clothes.

Police say Chase confessed to strangling Collins and concealing her naked body. Washington County Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson says an autopsy shows Collins died of strangulation and blunt force injuries.

Chase faces life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.

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Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com

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