ST. JOSEPH — Jeremy Cuellar told a Berrien County Trial Court judge Wednesday that when he took a deal last July and pleaded guilty to murdering U.S. Army Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III, he thought his only other choice was to die.

“If I was found guilty I assumed I would be on death row, and that scared me,” Cuellar told Judge Angela Pasula from a state prison in a motion hearing conducted by video. Earlier this year, Cuellar filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

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