A man who admitted to killing another man in downtown Reading could spend decades behind bars.

Raymond Searles Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday to third degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 to 40 years in prison.

Searles stabbed the victim, Joseph Ashford, in a courtyard outside the Sovereign Plaza office building, between the 400 blocks of Penn and Cherry streets, in center city on March 7. Ashford, 48, of Reading, died at the scene.

Police apprehended Searles a short time later. The suspect subsequently told 69 News that he stabbed Ashford in self-defense.

"He threatened to kill me in a bar, and when he swung a knife at me, I snapped out," said Searles.

The altercation between Searles and Ashford started inside Maria's Restaurant and Lounge in the 400 block of Penn Street, about a half-block from the homicide scene, police said.