ALFRED — A homeless man from Portland pleaded guilty to murder on Thursday and was sentenced to serve 33 years in prison after raping and fatally beating a woman and leaving her nearly lifeless in a bathtub at a Saco motel in 2012.

Lebon Bruno, 41, changed his plea to guilty in York County Superior Court on the charge of murdering 55-year-old Elizabeth Williams. Under the terms of the plea agreement, a second felony charge of gross sexual assault was dismissed.

Bruno said little at the hearing before Justice John O’Neil and showed no reaction. Standing between his attorneys in an orange jail uniform, he offered no explanation for why he attacked the woman, who was his friend, after a night of drinking in a rented room at the Sunrise Motel and left her to die.

Bruno’s attorneys, Clifford Strike and Molly Butler Bailey, and the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, reached the plea agreement less than two weeks before Bruno’s scheduled trial date of June 16.

Marchese said at the hearing that she had been prepared to ask for a sentence as long as 45 years, but was amenable to a plea agreement because it spared Williams’ family members and others the pain of a trial.

When housekeeping staff entered Room 19 of the motel on Nov. 3, 2012, thinking that Bruno had checked out, they found Williams unconscious, bloodied and bruised, Marchese said.

Williams died a day later at Maine Medical Center in Portland. An autopsy determine the cause of death was head trauma and cuts. Her blood-alcohol level was .28 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving, Marchese said.

The police affidavit filed with the court after Bruno’s arrest describes Williams’ injuries in detail, including internal injuries, eye and neck bruising, broken teeth, a broken nose and “a non-survivable brain injury.”

Williams’ friend, Paige Caulfield, spoke through tears at the sentencing hearing as she described going to the hospital to see Williams shortly before she died.

“I didn’t recognize her because she was so brutally beaten,” Caulfield said.

Williams’ former husband, David Haggett, told the judge that although he and Williams were no longer together at the time of her death, they were still very close and talked every week.

“She was my best friend, your honor. Elizabeth was a daughter, a sister. She was an aunt. She was a niece. She was a wife. She was a friend. She was a kind, loving person. She’s been taken away from us in a very brutal way,” Haggett said. “As a Christian, I am commanded to love my fellow man and forgive. And I can do that, but I can’t forget.”

The judge acknowledged what they said and other statements by Williams’ two sisters and brother, and explained to them that he would accept the 33-year agreed-upon sentence.

“There is nothing the court could say to fill the hole in your hearts. If there were, I would say it,” O’Neil told them.

Marchese said evidence would have come out at trial that Bruno and Williams had gone to the Saco motel on Nov. 2, 2012, ordered Chinese food and went to a nearby grocery store to buy gin and cola. Witnesses heard banging noises from the room during the night and said Bruno appeared drunk when he came out the next day.

Bruno checked out of the motel in the morning, took a cab to Portland to get a jacket from a dry cleaner and returned to the motel with beer later when police were already there, Marchese said.

When Bruno was brought to the Saco police station for questioning, investigators there noticed “red-brown stains” on his shoelaces. Police documented more “red-brown staining” on Bruno’s body under his clothes, as well as scratches and scrapes, Marchese said.

Bruno was not arrested until the Maine State Crime Laboratory confirmed that the stains on Bruno’s shoes were Williams’ blood. DNA samples taken from Bruno’s body contained a mix of DNA matching her blood and his, police have said.

Bruno was arrested in Lewiston on Nov. 17, 2012, and has been in custody since then.

Bruno made several claims that someone else had attacked Williams. He told police at one point that Williams had been attacked by Somalis and that he had been attacked as well. He also claimed that Williams was attacked by an Indian. Later, he tried to blame the motel manager, according to police.

Bruno and Williams met while they were homeless, and had known each other for about five years. They frequented the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, state police have said.

Bruno’s attorney, Strike, had said previously that Bruno is college educated, had been born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived here in Maine on disability support. He would not say how Bruno is disabled.

Strike told the judge that deportation is not an issue in Bruno’s case. Though Bruno’s family is of Haitian descent, Bruno is a U.S. citizen.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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