A man who allegedly killed a Clarkston woman was set to enter into a binding plea agreement Friday, but took exception to some phrasing and is now set to go to trial in Nez Perce County 2nd District Court.

Cole Marcell, 25, of Kamiah, is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the stabbing and bludgeoning death of Sarah Warden.

Marcell is one of three people implicated in Warden’s death. Gabriel Mattingly was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for concealing the killing and Amanda M.D. Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Marcell was set to enter a guilty plea Wednesday but took exception to the word “premeditated” murder in the charging document. He refused to sign the agreement, and attorneys met to try to hammer out another deal. None could be reached by Friday, so his case will head to trial.

Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman said no trial date has been set, but a scheduling conference was set for Oct. 23 so attorneys have time to call experts to gauge when they could testify at a trial. There will also be pretrial motions and arguments to set parameters for what can be brought in at trial before a jury can hear the case.

Coleman said he was unwilling to alter the nature of the charge, and unless Marcell agreed to the “premeditated” portion of the charge, the case will go to trial. Coleman said he does not anticipate continuing negotiations to reach another plea deal.

Marcell was arrested in July 2018, four days after Warden’s body was found near Winchester in an area where the carcasses of game animals are often dumped. An autopsy of Warden’s body showed she could have been dumped there as much as a month prior to being found.

Marcell allegedly orchestrated the killing and slit her throat, after robbing Warden of her $800 Social Security check. But each defendant had a different version of who was most responsible for Warden’s death.

Mattingly escorted Warden to meet up with Marcell and Jones, and she was last seen via surveillance footage getting into a truck in the Clarkston Walmart parking lot, according to court records. The three defendants then took Warden to cash her check before driving her out to the Waha area, where her throat was slit, she was stabbed and was beaten to death, according to court records.

Marcell told investigators Mattingly initiated the attack and handed the knife to Marcell and Jones, making each of them stab Warden to implicate them in the slaying. In her plea deal, Jones admitted to stabbing Warden. Mattingly pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and failure to notify authorities of a death. He did not admit to reportedly stabbing Warden in his plea deal.

As part of their plea deals, Jones and Mattingly both agreed to testify against Marcell if his case went to trial.

First-degree murder is punishable by at least 10 years and as much as life in prison.

Holm may be contacted at (208) 848-2275 or tholm@lmtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.

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