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Alma, Wisconsin (KROC-AM News) - A Rochester man is scheduled to be sentenced in February for murdering his girlfriend five years ago.

47-year-old Randall Merrick entered a guilty plea last week to a first-degree reckless homicide charge at the Buffalo County Wisconsin Courthouse in Alma. The plea agreement was worked out with prosecutors shortly after they amended the complaint against Merrick to include a first-degree intentional murder count that would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

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Merrick was arrested in Rochester in June of last year and was charged with killing Beth Johnson between Christmas Day in 2016 and early March the following year. He had also been charged with hiding a corpse for dumping her body in a northern Twin Cities suburb where the remains were found around the same time the warrant for Merrick's arrest was issued.

He and Johnson shared a home near Nelson Wisconsin and court records indicate investigators documented a history of alleged domestic abuse. One of the witnesses listed in the criminal complaint told investigators they had spoken with Merrick after Johnson went missing and he stated he had killed Johnson, saying "I hit her too hard."

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