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Hoff pleads guilty to murder

Kevin Hoff addresses the court Tuesday alongside his court-appointed attorney, Russ Myhre, during a change-of-plea hearing in Southeast District Court in Jamestown. Hoff pleaded guilty to the May 12 murder of his ex-wife. John M. Steiner / The Sun

A Jamestown man pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting and killing his ex-wife as she sat in her car in Jamestown.

Kevin Michael Hoff, 27, entered the plea in front of Judge Troy LeFevre in Southeast District Court. He was charged with Class AA murder in the death of Nicole Gututala, 25, on May 12. A presentence investigation has been ordered in the case.

The court proceeding Tuesday had been scheduled as a preliminary hearing and possible arraignment. Russ Myhre, Hoff's court-appointed attorney, notified the court Monday of Hoff's intent to waive his preliminary hearing and enter a guilty plea.

Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state's attorney, questioned Hoff to establish the facts necessary for a guilty plea.

Hoff and Gututala married in 2013 and divorced in 2017, with Southeast District Court awarding Gututala custody of the couple's two children. Hoff appealed that decision to the North Dakota Supreme Court, saying the decision was not in the best interest of the children. On May 9, the Supreme Court ruled against Hoff. The shooting occurred three days later.

Hoff said he had taken his children who had been living with Gututala to his sister's home on May 12. He then called Gututala telling her she could pick up the children. When she came out to her car, Hoff said he shot her three times with a 9mm Glock pistol.

It was his intent to kill her and he believed he had, Hoff told the court.

Hoff testified he then emptied the gun and placed it on the floor of the passenger side of his vehicle and drove to the Stutsman County Law Enforcement Center. While traveling, he called 911 and told dispatchers what he had done and where the unloaded weapon was located. He was arrested at the Law Enforcement Center.

"I did not want anyone else getting hurt," Hoff said.

Hoff said thoughts of killing his wife had begun "days earlier."

A psychiatric evaluation found Hoff competent to stand trial and competent at the time of the murder, Myhre said.

Hoff waived the presentence investigation. Fremgen and Myhre requested the presentence investigation, which was approved by LeFevre who called the process "a prudent thing to do."

Sentencing will be scheduled after the presentence investigation is completed. Hoff faces a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison because a firearm was used in the crime. The maximum sentence is life in prison without parole.

Hoff remains in custody at the Stutsman County Correctional Center on a $500,000 bond. The children have been placed with Gututala's family in Hawaii.