OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A 66-year-old ex-felon pleaded no contest today to second-degree murder for killing a 13-year-old Oakland girl 40 years ago.

Tucker, who has prior convictions for sexual assault and burglary, entered his plea in Alameda County Superior Court just before a trial was to begin on allegations that he sexually assaulted and murdered Julie McElhiney on Aug. 9, 1974.

According to Oakland police, McElhiney, a sixth-grader at Sequoia Elementary School, was found at about 5:40 p.m. on that day face down on the second floor of her family’s apartment at 3022 Pleitner Ave. in Oakland.

She was then transported to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy said the girl’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to her head.

The coroner also documented that there was an injury to her vaginal area, according to a probable cause statement by Oakland police Sgt. Michael Weisenberg.

The case remained unsolved until 2012, when DNA evidence connected Tucker to McElhiney’s death, Weisenberg said.

Specifically, Tucker’s DNA was found on the clothing that McElhiney was wearing at the time of her death, according to Weisenberg.

Tucker’s attorney Susan Walsh said Tucker entered his no contest plea to second-degree murder because the maximum state prison term he will face is seven years, since the sentencing range for second-degree murder when McElhiney was killed is five, six or seven years.

If the case had gone to trial and Tucker had been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced seven years to life in prison, Walsh said.

Prosecutor Erin Kingsbury wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Tucker is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Larry Goodman on Dec. 12.

Family members of both McElhiney and Tucker declined to comment this morning on Tucker’s plea.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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