A Medford man who admitted to police that he stabbed and killed the wife of a diplomat in her childhood hometown in Bellport pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday in Riverhead.
Robert Schiavo, 21, told State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle that he panicked on March 8, 2008, when he stabbed Nancy McKinley, 61, in the bedroom of her friend's Leisurely Lane home during a botched robbery.
McKinley, a Washington, D.C., resident and Bellport native, was married to Brunson McKinley, a longtime State Department official and the first U.S. ambassador to post-Duvalier Haiti.
More than a dozen members of the McKinley family attended Schiavo's guilty plea in Suffolk County Court. They declined to comment.
Schiavo pleaded guilty to first-degree and second-degree murder. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary for a December 2008 robbery at another Leisurely Lane house.
Doyle said he would sentence Schiavo to serve 25 years-to-life in prison. He set sentencing for April 19.
Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson said outside court she would seek a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Schiavo's attorney, Steven Wilutis of Miller Place, said his client decided to plead guilty after reviewing the evidence.
"It was a very difficult case," Wilutis said. "He's very remorseful. He feels horrible about what happened."
He said Schiavo had planned to join the Navy. "It's difficult to understand," Wilutis said.
McKinley, a librarian, was in Bellport to visit a friend when she was murdered. She had planned to renovate a nearby house, which she inherited from her parents, Joseph and Florence Padlon.
Schiavo said in court Wednesday that he entered the Leisurely Lane house through a back door and took some coins, cash and a pocketbook.
He said he realized someone was in the house when a light went off in a downstairs bedroom. He took a knife from the kitchen and went to the bedroom, where he felt a body in the bed, he said. Schiavo said when McKinley screamed, he stabbed her numerous times.
McKinley suffered six stab wounds and defensive wounds, Albertson said.