ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC– An Abilene murder suspect stopped his trial to plea guilty, getting sentenced to 35 years in prison for the crime.

Gene McCarter pleaded guilty to Murder in a Taylor County Courtroom Wednesday. The Taylor County District Attorney’s Office says McCarter halted court proceedings while witness testimony was underway and gave his plea.

A judge then sentenced McCarter serve 35 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Michelle Rowley, 49, who was found deceased at the Emerald Inn on E Hwy 80 in the early morning hours of February 19, 2020.

Court documents reveal McCarter first told police he found Rowley unresponsive in the bathtub and said she, “had perhaps taken too many prescription medications.”

He later changed his story at the police station and said he walked into the hotel room and found Rowley in a daze on the bed, so slapped her to get her to wake up, causing her nose to bleed, according to the documents.

McCarter says he then moved her from the bed to the bathroom, hitting her head and cutting it open while he was putting her in the tub.

The documents state he then told detectives he saw her head start to go underwater while he was filling the tub up, so he pulled her out and began to clean the wound on her head.

“After a short time,” the documents state he, “noticed water was running into her mouth and realized she might have been drowning.”

That’s when he called 9-1-1.

An autopsy report on Rowley showed no signs of drowning and revealed she was asphyxiated to death.

There were also fractures in her thyroid cartridge and contusions of the scalp, chest, face, and neck.

McCarter has remained held in the Taylor County Jail on a $100,000 bond since his arrest the day after Rowley was killed.