Omahan, 18, sentenced to 60-80 years for strangling ex-girlfriend

Justin Lenz


An Omaha teen accused of killing his ex-girlfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday in the hopes of a shorter prison term.

Justin Lenz, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the choking death of Melanie Koontz, a 16-year-old Benson High student.

Lenz faces 20 years to life in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 6. That is the same sentence he faced if convicted of the original charge of first-degree murder. But the plea deal means he could be sentenced on the lower end of the range.

Lenz's attorney, Public Defender Tom Riley, could not be reached for comment.

Lenz and Melanie had dated. Though the two had broken off their relationship, Lenz told others that they sometimes met for sex.

Lenz reportedly told a friend that he killed Koontz in May 2012 because he didn't approve of the choices she was making. He was accused of choking her with a belt near Cole Creek, below the bridge at 78th and Blondo Streets.

Riley has said Lenz suffers from mental health problems, including depression.

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