Falls man pleads guilty to killing girlfriend in exchange for life in prison

In a deal to avoid the death penalty, a Bucks County man pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping and killing his former girlfriend in 2010.

The agreement was spawned by Kenneth Patterson’s willingness – after more than two years – to tell authorities where he hid the body of Diane Corado, whom he had beaten with a metal pipe.

Patterson, 50, will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“This is definitely a heinous crime,” Bucks County First Assistant District Attorney Michelle Henry told reporters after the sentencing. “But this agreement ensures that Kenneth Patterson will never see the light of day again. He will die in jail.”

Henry said Corado's family supported the deal, which she said will spare them of “endless” death penalty appeals. She added that it allowed Corado to “come to rest at a place chosen by her family opposed to Kenneth Patterson.”

Patterson abducted Corado, a nurse, and a friend at her Falls township apartment in December 2010, beating Corado with a metal pipe and threatening her with a kitchen knife. He then forced both women into Corado's car but released her friend shortly afterward. Her friend called police.

Corado's 2004 Pontiac later was found parked in Camden, the interior stained with blood. Patterson was arrested after leaving a motel room in Maple Shade, his clothing also stained with blood. Patterson's former roommate told authorities that Patterson had previously threatened to kill Carodo if she didn't take him back.

Even without her body, authorities charged Patterson with murder and kidnapping given the evidence and the eyewitness account of the abduction.

The district attorney's office was building a death penalty case against Patterson. But in May Patterson revealed the location of Corado’s remains, a creek in Camden, clearing the way for a plea deal.

Before his sentencing, Patterson gave a brief statement to Corado's friends and family, describing her as “the person I love most in the world.”

“I understand the anger and hatred you must feel toward me – I feel it myself,” he said. “When I took Diane's life, the best part of me was taken, too.”

Judge Alan Rubenstein said during the hearing that he wouldn't question the DA's decision to strike the plea deal. But he said it sends the unfortunate message that a killer can use the victim's body as a “trump card” when the death penalty is sought.

Patterson’s plea deal isn’t the first of its kind in Bucks County. In 2002, John Passmore received a life sentence in exchange for directing authorities to the remains of his girlfriend, Melissa Chamberlain, who lived in Middletown.

Corado's son, Scott Melnick, told reporters after the sentencing that he barely listened to Patterson's apology, saying it provided no consolation to him. But he said he justice was served.

"She was a wonderful," he said of his mother. "We miss her terribly. Everybody does."