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California man charged with murder after homemade cannon kills girlfriend

Jeanette Ogara KFMB

(CBS/AP) EL CAJON, Calif. - A California man who allegedly ignited a homemade cannon that killed his live-in girlfriend was charged with murder on Thursday.

Richard Fox, 39, was also charged with exploding a destructive device and child endangerment, because the couple's sleeping 4-year-old daughter, who escaped unharmed, was in their trailer home at the time of the blast.

Prosecutors said Fox was drinking with his girlfriend and friends on Tuesday at the home in Potrero, a tiny rural community near the Mexican border. Fox went outside and lit the fuse to a 21-inch-long, 2-inch-thick steel pipe that he had stuck into the ground outside, authorities said.

The tube was packed with powder taken from fireworks and some kind of projectile. The girlfriend, 38-year-old Jeanette Ogara, was struck in the chest by shrapnel that tore into the home. Fox injured his leg.

According CBS affiliate KFMB, Fox can be heard mumbling and crying on the 911 tape.

"We've been drinking and everything, you know, I mean we had a few beers... (inaudible)... I went out there and I lit this stupid (expletive) homemade canon with this firework in there and it (expletive) went off and blew a hole through the side of the house and... (inaudible) Oh my god... Oh my god," Fox says on the tape.

Fox pleaded not guilty, and Superior Court Judge Charles Ervin set bail at $3.5 million. If convicted of all charges, Fox faces life in prison without parole.

Court records reveal that Fox served time in prison in the 1990s for auto theft and weapons possession, KFMB reports. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge against Ogara.

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