02/14/2008 AT 01:45 PM EST
A construction worker has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the November 2006 strangulation
of actress-filmmaker Adrienne Shelly.
Diego Pillco, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador who was arrested
days after Shelly's body was discovered in her Greenwich Village apartment, admitted in a New York courtroom on Thursday that he killed Shelly while trying to rob her.
He then hanged her in an attempt make her death appear like a suicide, the Associated Press reports.
Pillco said Shelly caught him stealing money from her purse and threatened to call police.
He is to be sentenced on March 6, and will receive 25 years in prison, says AP.
Shelly, 40, was born Adrienne Levine in Queens, N.Y., and raised on Long Island. At the time of her death, she and her husband, Andy Ostroy, had a 3-year-old daughter, Sophie.
Shelly had worked steadily acting in film, theater and television, but later turned to writing and directing and made her feature-film directorial debut with 1997's Sudden Manhattan
She wrote and directed the comedy Waitress
, starring Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines and Andy Griffith, which premiered to good reviews
at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and went on to open commercially.