Collin Richards pleads guilty in killing of Iowa State golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, records show

Rodney White/The Des Moines County Register

Collin Richards pleads guilty in killing of Iowa State golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, records show

Golf

Collin Richards pleads guilty in killing of Iowa State golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena, records show

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The man accused of killing a former Iowa State golf star Celia Barquin Arozamena pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Friday.

Collin Richards, 22, will be sentenced Aug. 23, but a first-degree murder conviction carries with it a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.

Richards was in court for a routine pretrial hearing at the Story County Justice Center in Nevada on Friday afternoon when he “indicated he wished to plead guilty as charged and was ready to proceed today,” District Judge Bethany Currie wrote in an order after the plea.

Richards sent Currie a handwritten note in March expressing the same desire to plead guilty, but she advised him to confer with his attorneys on the matter, and subsequent proceedings before Friday had focused on trial preparations.

Richards, who was homeless, was charged with killing Arozamena, the 2018 Big 12 Conference women’s golf champion and Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year. The civil engineering student was found dead with multiple stab wounds on the morning of Sept. 17 at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames.

A handwritten letter to Story County District Judge Bethany Currie says Collin Richards wants to plead guilty in the death of Celia Barquin Arozamena. (Photo: Special to the Register)

“Today we honor the life and memory of Celia Barquin Arozamena, by announcing that justice has been served in her case,” Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said in a written statement. “There were no plea offers made in this case…

“My heart is with Celia’s family today with the hope that this result will bring them some level of comfort.”

Richards had formally pleaded not guilty. The trial was scheduled for September in Decorah.

In the March letter, he wrote that “I would like to take care of my case, I would like to do whatever it is to move forward ending the case ple of guilty if it takes that thank you & sorry. I do plead guilty.”

Currie instructed Richards’ public defenders to request a hearing if a guilty plea was planned. The lawyers did not respond to messages from reporters then and did not return messages this week seeking comment about Friday’s hearing.

The public defenders did not answer subsequent requests for comment Friday afternoon.

The attack and the investigation

Police said Richards, who was staying at a homeless camp near Coldwater Golf Links in September, told another man he had “an urge to rape and kill a woman” the day before the killing. When officers found him, he had scratches on his face consistent with fighting, police said.

When Richards arrived that day at an acquaintance’s house, he was disheveled and covered in blood, sand and water, a witness told detectives. He bathed, then left with blood-stained clothes in a black backpack, police said in court records.

Celia Barquin Arozamena. (Photo: Special to the Des Moines Register)

Barquin Arozamena was golfing alone the morning of Sept. 17, as she often did to practice.

In the days after her body was found at the course, investigators executed search warrants and located three knives, other physical evidence and what detectives believed to be Richards’ Facebook page, court documents show.

Transient for much of his life, Richards had repeated run-ins with authorities that began when he was 10. He has a history of mental illness and drug addiction that prompted more than two dozen juvenile and criminal charges.

A native of Puente San Miguel, Spain, Barquin Arozamena has been remembered for her infectious smile and bubbly personality. She was among the most accomplished golfers in Iowa State history.

“This tragic crime is something we have all been moved and saddened by. But we will not let tragedy define us,” Reynolds, the county prosecutor, wrote. “We will honor the life and memory of Celia by remembering her great spirit and all the lives she touched and made better in the time she spent with us.

“The thoughts and prayers of our entire community are with her loved ones, and I hope today’s events can offer them some measure of peace.”

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