STROUDSBURG, Pa. -

A man has entered a surprise guilty plea in Monroe County as jury selection was set to begin in his death penalty trial for the killing of an elderly former teacher whose body was found in South Carolina.

Thirty-three-year-old Rico Herbert of Montrose pleaded guilty Monday in Monroe County Court to third-degree murder, car theft and abuse of a corpse. He was immediately sentenced to 31 to 62 years in state prison.

Herbert could have been sentenced to death if convicted by a jury of the slaying of 87-year-old Joseph DeVivo of Stroud Township. Prosecutors allege that he killed the victim in February 2012 and drove off with the body in the trunk.

Herbert was arrested in North Carolina and DeVivo's body was later found in South Carolina.