By Nancy L. Othón
June 11, 2007, 12:00 PM EDT
WEST PALM BEACH -- In front of his victim's family seated in a Palm Beach County courtroom Monday morning, a New Jersey man calmly recounted how he strangled Linda Fishman more than four years ago at her home west of Boca Raton.
As part of his plea agreement, Fred Kretzmer, 32, had to answer questions from a prosecutor about how and why he murdered Fishman. Kretzmer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree arson and will spend 20 years in prison.
Kretzmer said he befriended Fishman at the Marriott in Palm Beach Gardens where he was working in 1999.
In February 2003, he took a taxi to her home on Flower Drive and waited for Fishman to come home, Kretzmer said. He then snuck into her garage and entered her home, he testified.
Kretzmer testified he had gone to Fishman's home to "rekindle an old friendship," but that when Fishman failed to recognize him and began to panic that a strange man was in her home, Kretzmer was "caught very emotionally."
"I went at her and I took her from behind and I strangled her," Kretzmer said.
Kretzmer used a brown cord to strangle Fishman, then poured alcohol on her hands and neck to try to clean up the scene, he said.
At one point in the hearing, Kretzmer turned around to apologize to Fishman's family.
Fishman's sister Bernice Ferency called the apology "weak."
Family members said they agreed to the deal to ensure a conviction and prison time for Kretzmer.