The guilty plea comes about five months after the murder. 100-year-old Joe Fischer was attacked in his apartment in August.
David Anthony Romero's mother helped police find her son in the first place, and she was ready to help prosecutors put him away, even though it was clearly tearing her up. She was heard saying over and over again that she just had to tell the truth.
But Romero's decision to plead "no contest" kept her from taking the stand.
David Anthony Romero showed little emotion as he admitted to killing 100-year-old military veteran Joe Fischer. But tears flowed as his family left the courtroom.
Romero's mother was prepared to testify against her own son. The 47-year-old had confessed to his mother that he beat up Fischer during a robbery attempt at this apartment complex in August. She forced him to turn himself in to police.
After Romero saw his mother in court, he agreed to plead no contest to first degree murder.
"That means you could spend up to the rest of your natural life in prison pursuant to this agreement, Judge Gary Hoff told Romero, "Do you understand that?"
Romero replied, "Yes, your honor."
The plea came a surprise and a relief to Fischer's family and friends. Joe Fisher's friend Eli Cruz said the resolution to the murder case is a step toward closure -- one they didn't expect to come so quickly. "I'm hoping that what came to his mind was that it just wasn't fair. It's not fair to take somebody's life."
The life he took is one the Sanger community came together in large numbers to celebrate. Cruz said, before the attack, Fischer had a strength and energy that amazed him. "He had a lot of life. I think if Mr. Fischer was still around, he would've still been around for, gosh, five-plus years maybe."
Romero agreed to serve a life sentence. He'll be eligible for parole after 29 years, when he's 76 years old.
A judge will officially sentence Romero next month.