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A Beaver County man who earlier this month shot and killed his girlfriend, pleaded guilty on Monday and was sentenced to prison for up to life — an extremely expedited resolution that was initiated by the defendant.

Ronald Corey Fordham, 42, of Beaver, was charged two weeks ago in 5th District Court with first-degree felony murder, as well as third-degree felony possession of a firearm by a restricted person, for the April 9 slaying of 37-year-old Desiree Shotwell.

On Monday, Fordham pleaded guilty to the murder count. In exchange, the weapons charge was dismissed.

Judge G. Michael Westfall immediately sentenced Fordham to 15 years to life at the Utah State Prison.

Defense attorney Edrick Overson told The Tribune that the rapid resolution of the case — which he opined might be one of the quickest homicide resolutions in Utah history — was Fordham's idea.

The plea and sentencing came on the day of Fordham's initial court appearance, shocking the judge, said Overson, who noted that many homicide prosecutions go on for years.

"[Fordham] didn't want to prolong it and he wanted to keep the family from suffering more than they already suffered," Overson said. "[The crime] was horrible and a tragedy, but could have been worse if it had dragged on."

Beaver County Attorney Von Christiansen told The Tribune that the judge said he would recommend to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole that Fordham serve out his full life sentence.

Christiansen said the judge cited Fordham's past criminal history and the "betrayal" inherent in killing a loved one.

"They were in an argument and he shot her in the face," Christiansen said of the April 9 homicide.

Christiansen said Fordham — who had an off-and-on relationship with Shotwell for about 13 years — had threatened to kill her on other occasions.

When officers arrived at Shotwell's home, southeast of Beaver, Fordham was laying next to her body with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun at his feet, Christiansen said.

Shotwell was a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker and worked at a local art gallery, Love the Art.

Christiansen said Shotwell's death was a "tragedy for our community ... we are feeling her loss substantially."

The Beaver County Attorney's Office said in a written statement, "We hope this outcome can help [Shotwell's] family to begin to heal."

Christiansen said Fordham's criminal history includes a 2013 conviction for class A misdemeanor assault on a police officer, a 2000 conviction for class B misdemeanor attempted violation of a protective order, a 1994 third-degree felony conviction for unlawful sexual activity with a minor, as well as a couple of domestic violence convictions.

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