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Guilty plea entered in Colorado pot-candy killing case

DENVER (AP) — A Denver man who claimed that eating marijuana-infused candy led him to kill his wife pleaded guilty in her death on Friday. Richard Kirk, 50, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the April 2014 shooting death of Kristine Kirk under a plea deal with prosecutors, who dropped a first-degree murder charge against him.

Kirk faces between 25 to 30 years in prison and five years of parole when he's sentenced April 7. He had faced the possibility of life in prison under the first-degree murder charge. Kirk initially pleaded not guilty, but in 2015 he changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense said he was intoxicated with THC, marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, which led to delirium.

Before she was shot, Kristine Kirk told a 911 dispatcher her husband was hallucinating and was getting a gun after eating pot candy. Authorities said low levels of THC were found in his blood, and a partially eaten piece of marijuana candy was found in the house. According to investigators, the couple had escalating marital and financial problems, and Kristine Kirk had told a friend she was afraid of her husband because they had been fighting so much.

District Attorney Beth McCann declined to say what role marijuana may have played in the killing, but she said the judge would hear testimony about any "mitigation or aggravation" at sentencing. "The family did not want the case to go to trial given the personal and emotional toll family members have already suffered," she said.

Defense lawyers declined comment. Under the plea deal, Kirk allowed his wife's parents, Marti and Wayne Kohnke, to adopt the couple's three children. Last year, the Kohnkes sued two marijuana businesses that sold candy to Richard Kirk, saying they failed to warn him about its potency and possible side effects.

In response to the Kirk case and the death of a college student who jumped from a hotel balcony after eating a potent marijuana cookie, Colorado lawmakers tightened regulations on edible marijuana and the state now has stricter potency limits.