An Ozarks man who says he was sleepwalking when he shot and killed his ex-wife as she slept was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.
Eldon Ault, 74, said he was sleeping with his ex-wife, who had become his girlfriend, in March 2017 with a loaded pistol under his pillow, according to court records. He told police he didn’t remember shooting the gun and that he awakened when it was fired.
Merritt died of a gunshot wound on the upper back side of her head that was “inconsistent with the pistol being fired under a pillow,” investigators said in court records.
The Forsyth, Mo., man pleaded under what’s known as an Alford plea, which is a guilty plea that allows defendants to maintain their innocence.
He was initially charged with first-degree murder but pleaded to second-degree murder. He’ll serve 30 years for murder and a concurrent sentence of 20 years for armed criminal action.
Ault told police that his girlfriend, Dianna Merritt, was planning to leave in the morning to visit another ex-husband who was terminally ill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.