A Wyoming man accused killing his girlfriend on New Year's Day with a gunshot to the face does not dispute that he shot her, but says the handgun accidentally discharged as they argued, court records show.

Ladale Tracy Williams-Nelson, 37, was arraigned Wednesday in Wyoming District Court on multiple charges, including open murder, for the predawn shooting at the home he shared with the victim. He's also charged with being a habitual offender for prior convictions in Kent and Muskegon counties.

Police say 25-year-old Leticia Vela was shot inside a home on Lee Street SW. Williams-Nelson fled, but was arrested about a mile away. He and Vela have a child together.

Williams-Nelson told investigators that he and Vela argued during the night and into the early morning hours. He admitted to having a semi-automatic pistol in hand while arguing in the living room, court records show.

He said Vela "placed her hands upon him during the arguments, which allegedly caused scratches to his body,'' according to a probable cause affidavit.

“Ladale denies pointing the pistol at Leticia,'' a Wyoming police officer wrote in the probable cause affidavit. “Ladale states that while the pistol was in his hand, it was fired accidentally. Ladale reports after Leticia fell to the floor he left the firearm behind, left the scene on foot and was apprehended by police about one mile away.''

Williams-Nelson is charged with five felony offenses, including open murder and domestic violence – third offense.

Wyoming District Court Judge Pablo Cortes ordered that he be held without bond pending a probable cause hearing on Jan. 17.

Wyoming officers were dispatched to the home about 4:45 a.m. Monday on a report of a shooting. Vela was pronounced dead at the scene. A police tracking dog followed the suspect to a home about a mile away, where he was arrested.

A witness told police Williams-Nelson was 'on top' of Vela, "striking her with his fists and choking her neck with his hands,'' court records show. “Leticia intended to call police, but her phone was knocked from her hands by defendant, which prevented her from making the emergency call.''

The witness told investigators Williams-Nelson was holding a pistol, which was “visible against Leticia's face,'' court records show.

“The witness moved to call police and witness heard a gunshot. Leticia was found slumped on floor with an obvious gunshot wound to the face,'' according to the probable cause affidavit. “Ladale dropped firearm at the victim's side and fled the scene on foot.''

Williams-Nelson has domestic assault convictions in 2008 and 2009. He was also charged with domestic assault following a fight with Vela at the Lee Street home back in August. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.

Friends and family of Vela are planning a candlelight vigil in her honor at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3 outside the home on Lee Street at Oregon Avenue SW where the shooting occurred.

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