Stephen Ross Kelly pleaded guilty to all the charges against him on Monday to avoid a trial

By Tara Fowler
Updated September 29, 2015 09:10 AM

A Kershaw County, South Carolina, man pleaded guilty to the 2014 rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman on Monday.

The trial for Stephen Ross Kelly, 21, was due to start on Monday, but instead he elected to plead guilty to all the charges against him, including criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and murder, The State reports.

Briana Rabon, a hostess at the Tilted Kilt chain of pubs, was found strangled to death in a wooded area in February 2014. Investigators immediately identified Kelly as a suspect in her death after he admitted that he was the last person to see her alive but could not account for her whereabouts after that.

In court Monday, Kelly offered to tell Rabon’s family and friends his version of that night’s events. “I feel like if anything’s right, it’s to let the Rabon family know what happened that night,” he said, according to WIS.

Kelly went on to say that he regrets what happened. “I think about everyday what would have happened if I’d just let her go. Let her run,” he said, before asking the judge to give him the sentence he deserves.

Kelly’s mother also took the stand, insisting that her son never meant to kill Rabon. “I know in my heart that my child is not a monster,” she said. “We’re two families here in major tragedy.” She added that Kelly struggled with drug use before the murder.

But Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews insisted Kelly would have killed again, if given the chance. “This guy had anger issues against women,” he told reporters after the hearing, The State reports. “He beat his girlfriend, and he beat Briana mercilessly before raping her.”

Kelly was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

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