Man Pleads Guilty to Murdering Longtime Girlfriend in South LA

Rows of Prison Cells

Photo: slobo / E+ / Getty Images

COMPTON (CNS) - A 38-year-old man has pleaded guilty to murdering his longtime girlfriend, with whom he shared two children.

Richard Lara was immediately sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison following his plea Tuesday to first-degree murder, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Lara admitted that he personally used a knife during the commission of the crime Feb. 4.

Lara and his girlfriend -- identified by family members as Nicole Santillanes -- left their apartment in the 9800 block of South Broadway that evening and walked to a neighborhood store, according to a statement released by the Los Angeles Police Department shortly after the woman's killing. When they finished shopping, the victim returned home first, and when Lara returned, "a dispute between the two turned into a physical altercation which led to the victim's murder," police said.

The two had been together for about 13 years and were living with their two children, according to police.

Lara fled before police arrived, and he was arrested Feb. 8 by members of the LAPD's Gang and Narcotics Division, police said.

Family members said Santillanes was a mother of four children, ages 7, 8, 13 and 20 at the time.

According to a GoFundMe page, Santillanes worked as a nursing assistant "to provide for her children."

"Our Nicole was a beautiful woman who went above and beyond to give her children a better life," according to the GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $14,400.

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