April 10 (UPI) -- Dylann Roof, sentenced to death in federal court in a mass church shooting in South Carolina in 2015, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in Charleston to state murder charges, avoiding a second lengthy trial.
Roof pleaded guilty to nine state counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a firearms violation in exchange for a plea deal of life in prison without parole.
Roof, who turned 23 on April 3, appeared in court where he entered the plea before Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson.
By avoiding a second trial, the state will transfer him from the Charleston County detention center to federal custody where he will begin serving in the U.S. prison system and become the 63rd person on federal death row. Male inmates sentenced to death are housed in Terre Haute, Ind.
On March 31, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced that a plea would offer the best "insurance policy" in case the federal sentence was threatened on appeal. Several family members of the victims and the survivors were pleased another emotional trial would be avoided.
In January, Roof was convicted and sentenced to death on federal hate crimes and religious rights violations.
Before being sentenced in federal court, Roof said: "I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I had to do it."
Roof was convicted of killing nine black worshipers on June 17, 2015, during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Roof, who planned the attack for months, professed hatred of African Americans and other minorities, and spoke of starting a race war in journals and videos, according to evidence in the federal trial.