EL CAJON, Calif. - An East County man whose homemade cannon-like device exploded, sending shrapnel through his trailer that killed his longtime girlfriend, pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges of explosion of a destructive device and possession of ingredients to make an explosive device.
Richard Dale Fox, 41, faces between six and 10 years in prison for causing the March 2012 death of 38-year-old Jeanette Ogara. Fox was originally charged with murder.
El Cajon Judge Patricia Cookson scheduled sentencing for Sept. 15.
Following the defendant's arraignment in 2012, Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody said there was no evidence that Fox, who had been drinking, intended to kill his girlfriend.
"There were some tears in the courtroom," said Mody. "This is obviously an emotional case for both sides."
In a recording of Fox's 911 call immediately following the 12:05 a.m. blast, he can be heard sobbing and apologizing.
"I didn't mean to," Fox told the dispatcher. "Why couldn't it be me?"
Fox, Ogara and three male friends were in the trailer in Potrero drinking around 11:30 p.m. on March 5, 2012, when the defendant went outside to ignite the mortar-like device, Mody said.
The device included a 26-inch-long pipe meant to be stood up, loaded with gunpowder or some other explosive material and ignited by a fuse at its base. It was not pointed at the trailer, according to the prosecutor.
Fox ignited the device and it exploded, causing the pipe to shatter and sending a piece of shrapnel through a side panel of the trailer, hitting Ogara in the upper chest, Mody said.
The couple's 4-year-old daughter, who was sleeping in the front area of the trailer, and the three friends were not injured. Fox was treated for leg wounds.
According to court records, Fox served time in prison in the 1990s for auto theft and weapons possession. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to a misdemeanor battery charge against Ogara.