Miranda Rice said she had gone to her mother's gravesite Monday morning to place flowers – ready to face what she anticipated this week.

“I was prepared to go to trial and give my testimony,” said Rice, the daughter of Louise Dickey, who was killed in her Independence home on March 28, 2016.

Instead, 28-year-old Cory King of Independence pleaded guilty as charged in Dickey's death – first-degree murder and armed criminal action – accepting a sentence of life in prison without parole, plus another life sentence to run concurrently.

Before accepting King's plea at the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse, Circuit Judge Jack Grate made sure King knew exactly the possibilities he would be relinquishing.

King answered every question from his attorney, public defender Laura O'Sullivan, and Grate calmly but succinctly, with no hesitation. He said “no doubt” when asked if there was any doubt about the deliberation involved in attacking and killing the 63-year-old Dickey and said “correct” when asked if, indeed, O'Sullivan had advised him against his plea.

“It was important for the defendant,” O'Sullivan said to Grate, “that the daughter of the victim not have to go through a trial.”

“Shocked,” Rice said afterward about learning King would plead guilty, “and relieved.”

Rice found her mother knifed to death the afternoon of March 29, 2016, after concerned neighbors noticed Dickey's car was missing, according to court documents. Police quickly identified King, a relative of one of Dickey's neighbors who had done some chores for her, as a suspect. After a rapid investigation they tracked him that night to a motel near Raytown.

Dickey and King had gone to a nearby Walgreens and Dollar General that afternoon, and King told police he had been under the influence of drugs – marijuana and Xanax – and he and Dickey argued after she wouldn't let him sleep on her couch. He then grabbed her from behind and used two different knives, first cutting her throat and then stabbing her in the chest. King then emptied Dickey's purse, took her car and used her phone to contact a friend to pick him up.

Rice said she wanted to thank prosecutors and Independence Police for their work in the case.

“They've been amazing,” she said.

CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR: Opening arguments are slated for this morning in the trial of Taylor, who is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the October 2016 shooting death of 22-year-old Whitney Gray. Jury selection was Monday.

Taylor, 40, allegedly shot Gray in a fit of road rage at the intersection of Sterling Avenue and Winner Road in western Independence. He then fled the area before investigators tracked him down in South Dakota.