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Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 -- 2:23 PM

Audio - :54

Clark County?s District Attorney says he was surprised to learn Shaun Rudy is apparently prepared to plead ?no contest? or ?guilty? to homicide and dismemberment charges.

?I wasn?t given any heads up. It?s fairly early in the process. It came as a bit of surprise to me,? said Darwin Zwieg after Tuesday?s status conference.

Zwieg alleges the 23-year-old Thorp man murdered his wife and her unborn child, dismembered the body and disposed of it in the Chippewa River.

Rudy?s attorney, David Grace, told Judge Jon Counsell his client wanted a plea hearing scheduled in the matter ? apparently signifying Rudy doesn?t want to fight the charges.

Zwieg says he has not discussed this turn of events with Mr. Grace and he?s unsure what prompted Rudy?s decision.

But, he says he doubts this is a tactical maneuver by the defense.

?I believe it to be the real deal,? Zwieg says. ?Mr. Grace has been around a while. He?s a good attorney, to the best of my knowledge. He wouldn?t grandstand in a case of this magnitude.?

Zwieg expects the Court will order a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) before sentencing occurs. That sentence could be as severe as life without parole.

Zwieg says he talked with the victim?s family after the status conference and he described them as having a ?sense of relief? at the prospect of avoiding a trial in the matter.

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