A Kokomo man who confessed to killing his girlfriend during a physical altercation in October 2020 was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison.

James M. Charles, 31, was initially arrested on a level one felony charge of murder and a level two felony charge of voluntary manslaughter for the death of 40-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez, according to online court records.

During a sentencing hearing last month inside Howard Superior 1, the murder charge against Charles was dismissed, and he instead pleaded guilty to an amended charge of voluntary manslaughter after officials determined Charles acted under “sudden heat.”

According to TheLaw.com, sudden heat is described as a crime that is committed when a person suddenly reacts with emotion or passion to a situation and the crime is also not premeditated.

It was on Oct. 25, 2020, that authorities located Rodriguez’s body next to a garage in the 1200 block of West Taylor Street, a probable cause affidavit filed through the Howard County Clerk’s Office at the time noted.

Investigators contacted Charles shortly after Rodriguez’s body was discovered, and he reportedly told authorities his girlfriend had left their residence to meet up with someone for a drug deal and he had not seen her since, court documents state.

He also initially denied any involvement in Rodriguez’s death.

But during a conversation with Rodriguez’s family, investigators reportedly learned Charles and Rodriguez had been “involved in an altercation” earlier that week, and Charles had choked Rodriguez twice during that previous altercation, per court records.

That information then prompted Charles to confess to his involvement in Rodriguez’s death, according to the affidavit.

Charles told authorities that Rodriguez and he had been drinking when a physical altercation ensued after Charles spilled Rodriguez’s drink, court documents stated.

Charles added that he then got Rodriguez into a chokehold and eventually killed her, according to his interview as detailed in the affidavit.

After that, Charles told investigators he then wrapped Rodriguez in a sheet, dragged her out of their apartment, put her body in an alleyway, pulled a mattress against the garage to conceal her body and then threw her personal items into a dumpster.

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