The man who threw a deadly punch in May at a Rock Hill bar plead guilty Thursday to voluntary manslaughter.
Eric Cobb, 31, of York, will be sentenced at a later date.
Cobb had initially been charged with murder after striking and killing Odell Fields in the Sandbar parking lot on May 10.
Cobb, Fields and another man got into an altercation inside the bar, and as Fields, 66, was leaving Cobb reportedly came through a crowd of people to punch Fields in the head. Fields apparently struck his head on the ground and was unresponsive when paramedics arrived. He was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
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Cobb was arrested a short time later and charged with assault and battery. After Fields later died in the hospital, Cobb’s charges were upgraded to murder.
On Thursday, Cobb plead to a lesser charge in an agreement worked out with prosecutors, after a brief hearing inside the Moss Justice Center. The defendant, standing in shackles and an orange jumpsuit between his two public defenders, did not speak except to enter his guilty plea and answer yes or no questions from Judge John C. Hayes III.
Fields’ widow also was present in the courtroom, but did not address the court. Attorneys agreed to wait until a sentencing hearing the week of Dec. 1 for family members to address the court.
“The family has a hard time even seeing the defendant,” said Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson. “There was really no reason for them to speak today.
“The reason we had the plea today was just to get it locked in. It’s a comfort to the family to know he won’t be able to back out of it later.”
Cobb faces anywhere from two to 30 years in prison.
In May, Cobb cried and apologized to Fields’ family during his initial bond hearing. He admitted a punch was thrown, but said he never intended for this to happen. He said he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and he was trying to diffuse the situation. He also said he would give his own life to have Fields back.
“From the very beginning he’s been remorseful,” said Deputy Public Defender B.J. Barrowclough. “He’s always been willing to accept responsibility.”
Barrowclough said he would push for a lesser prison sentence at Cobb’s sentencing hearing.