A cold-case murder came to an end Wednesday after Bernard Fred Rigby was sentenced to prison for the 1990 shooting death of a man Rigby considered a rival for a woman's affections.

Rigby, 65, pleaded guilty in July to manslaughter, a second-degree felony. Prosecutors maintain Rigby killed Gary Feltch, 47, after confronting Feltch outside his Holladay home, where Rigby shot Feltch to death with a sawed-off shotgun.

Rigby admitted that he has shared this secret with only three people, one of whom is a good friend and former sheriff's deputy who hid this information for years, but eventually decided to come clean and testified against Rigby at his August 2007 preliminary hearing.

The case went unsolved for years, but was reopened, and in 2007, Rigby was charged with killing Feltch.

Third District Judge Vernice Trease on Wednesday sentenced Rigby to zero to five years in prison, a lower sentence than is usual for a second-degree felony, since the plea bargain was made under a law that permits a reduction in sentencing.

Defense attorney Scott Wilson asked that Trease consider keeping Rigby in jail, where he has been since his 2007 arrest, because Rigby's health is in bad shape and jailers know his medical condition. Among other things, Rigby has had throat cancer and suffered a stroke in 2000. He now uses a wheelchair for mobility.

However, the judge said it is up to state corrections officials to decide where Rigby will be housed.

Rigby has a long history of alcohol abuse, for which he eventually got counseling. After his stroke in 2000, he stopped drinking entirely. At his sentencing, the visibly ailing Rigby addressed the judge using a mechanical speech device.

"I didn't do it," Rigby insisted. "I never, ever, ever shot anybody."

Prosecutor Vincent Meister said the attitude Rigby displayed in court was typical of what Meister has observed in the past.

"He is still not accepting responsibility," Meister said. "He cannot admit to a lie he has been living for 19 years."

Rigby's close friend, Scott Cook, a former Salt Lake County Sheriff's deputy, testified that Rigby told him he had killed Feltch. Cook said he kept his friend's secret for years and even lied to fellow law enforcement officials to protect Rigby. But when the case was reopened, Cook testified against his friend, saying that Rigby had admitted he was guilty.

Rigby also apparently said the same thing to his step-daughter's husband and another man with whom he shared a jail cell, according to Meister.

Outside the courtroom, Rigby defense attorney Wes Howard said that his client was "a notorious teller of tall-tales and boastful stories," especially with his history of hard drinking, and "this one came back to haunt him."

"He has consistently said he didn't do it," Howard said, adding that Rigby entered an "Alford plea," which is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement that prosecutors have enough evidence to get a conviction.

Given Rigby's poor health and the fact that no one can predict what a jury will do, the plea bargain seemed like the best resolution, even though Rigby maintains his innocence, Howard said.

Erika Feltch, the daughter of the slain man, was overcome with emotion in court and quietly told Meister she was unable to speak calmly enough to give a victim-impact statement to the judge.

Outside the courtroom, Erika Feltch described her father as "the most giving person" she had ever known and said that they were very close because she is a tomboy at heart who shared her father's passion for such things as fishing, scuba diving and camping.

Erika Feltch dismissed Rigby's claims of innocence.

"He's taken away all my Father's Days, our scuba-diving trips, our camping, our fishing," she said. "He's taken away our entrepreneurship — I owned my own business, and I wanted my dad to be part of that."

Erika Feltch said the last time she spoke to her father was on Father's Day in 1990, when she chided him for forgetting her 21st birthday, which was a week earlier. He responded by giving her a hand-crafted black pearl and diamond ring that she wears to this day.

"I never got to thank him," she said. "I got the phone call he was dead."

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com