Guerneville man pleads no contest to murder

November 11, 2011 12:29:22 PM PST
A Guerneville man pleaded no contest in Sonoma County Superior Court Thursday to the first-degree strangulation murder and robbery of his neighbor in 2009.

Andrew Brian Sharkey, 38, agreed to a 32 1/2 years to life prison term for the murder of Michael Van Tillman in Tillman's Guerneville home on June 25, 2009, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said. He will be sentenced Jan. 20.

Sharkey, an Englishman, also admitted he personally used a garrote to strangle Tillman and pleaded no contest to elder abuse and residential burglary, Ravitch said.

Sharkey learned that his neighbor Tillman, 67, kept a large amount of money in his home, Ravitch said. After strangling Tillman with a braided wire, Sharkey stole Tillman's cash, Ravitch said.

Sharkey informed the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office on June 27 that he had witnessed a murder three days earlier. Tillman's body was then found in the downstairs garage area of his Orchard Avenue home.

Gary Allen Scott, 58, of Guerneville, was arrested in Prescott, Az. for the murder and admitted being an accessory. Sheriff's deputies then arrested Sharkey. Scott was expected to testify at Sharkey's trial.

By pleading no contest to first-degree murder, Sharkey avoided a mandatory life sentence because the murder happened during a residential burglary, the district attorney's office said. Sharkey will serve the 32-year term before he is eligible for parole, Ravitch said.

Sharkey also waived his right to an appeal and cannot challenge his prison sentence under any circumstances, Ravitch said.

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