A suburban Philadelphia man who raped a young neighbor girl, then brutally killed her in the basement of their apartment complex, will spend the rest of his life in prison under the terms of a plea deal approved by a judge Monday.

The agreement enables James Lee Troutman to avoid the death penalty for the strangling and attack on Skyler Kauffman at the apartment complex in Souderton, where a previous encounter between them prompted a call to the police.

Troutman pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder and related charges. He admitted he raped Kauffman, then choked her and slammed her head against the basement floor repeatedly before dumping her body in a commercial trash bin May 9.

That was a few weeks after Kauffman's mother called police to complain about Troutman because she was suspicious about the circumstances surrounding a meeting her daughter and another girl had with Kauffman, in which they said they were locked in his bathroom.

Authorities said at the time there was no evidence a crime had been committed.

Defense attorney Craig Penglase said his client had wanted to plead guilty all along, but he was trying to avoid the death penalty.

"I applaud the DA's office for their decision to make that possible," Penglase told the Bucks County Courier Times. "Without their proper use of discretion to take death off the table, this plea wouldn't have happened and all parties would have had to go through a trial."

Investigators questioned Troutman in Kauffman's death after noticing blood on his sneakers, and he eventually confessed, police said.


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