News9.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – A man who was linked through DNA evidence to the rape and murder of a Yukon woman back in 1986 withdrew his guilty plea Friday morning, and instead entered an Alford plea.

Kathy Engle, 41, was abducted by two men from the parking lot of Shepherd Mall on April 23, 1986. Her car was found in New Mexico a day after she disappeared. Her nude body was discovered in Sayre, Oklahoma, a week after her abduction.

Engle's case went cold and unsolved for 23 years until investigators linked her murder to now 46-year-old prison inmate Kyle Richard Eckardt. In 2009, he was already serving time in an Oklahoma prison for an assault in Tulsa.

Eckardt appeared in front of an Oklahoma County judge Friday morning.  Instead of pleading guilty as many had expected, Eckardt entered an Alford plea.  It means he does not admit to the crime, but acknowledges there is enough evidence he could be found guilty by a jury.  By using the Alford plea, Eckardt avoids the risk of being convicted and possibly sentenced to death.

Eckardt's accomplice has never been caught.