A week before his capital murder trial was to start, Jesse James Cole pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon and another felony in a fatal drive-by shooting at Bob Baskin Park in June 2008.
Cole, 24, was facing the death penalty in the case, which was set to go to trial this week. He pleaded guilty Thursday to the murder charges and to discharging a firearm out of a motor vehicle. As part of the agreement, Cole will avoid capital punishment and face a sentence of 32 years to life in prison.
Two other felony charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.
On June 8, 2008, Cole fired a handgun into a crowd at Bob Baskin Park, on Oakey Boulevard near Rancho Drive, killing David Miramontes, 18, and wounding Chris Luscombe, 19. Luscombe died 18 days later at University Medical Center.
The shooting happened after two groups of girls brawled at a nearby house party while celebrating a high school graduation. Witnesses told authorities that the fight started after one group of girls gave the other a dirty look.
Soon, threatening and taunting text messages were exchanged and another brawl was expected to take place at Bob Baskin Park.
Jury selection was to begin Monday, and prosecutors were expected to call more than 45 witnesses.
Family members and friends of both victims attended the Thursday hearing at which Cole pleaded guilty.
A sentencing hearing before Judge David Barker was set for June 15, jail records show.
Luscombe, known as "Superman," was a former Clark High School linebacker who dreamed of going into the NFL. He was the 2007 prom king and could bench press 400 pounds.
Miramontes was known within his circle as a gentle giant. He stood 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. He was meticulous about his looks and worked hard to save money for a $2,500 collection of size 13 and 14 shoes.
Cole is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.