A former St. Francis Xavier University instructor accused of beating his wife to death with a hammer has pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

Patrick Chareka was formally charged with first-degree murder after Ottilia Chareka, 42, was found in the couple's home in 2011.

He originally pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge but changed his plea Wednesday to guilty of second-degree murder.

Ottilia Chareka was found in the couple's home in March 2011 after the RCMP responded to a 911 call about a disturbance. She died later in hospital.

RCMP said autopsy results showed Ottilia Chareka died from blunt force trauma.

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Ottilia Chareka was widely known and respected in the community. She was originally from Zimbabwe and left behind five children. (St. FX)

The murder took place at the couple's home in Antigonish with at least one of their five children present. They range in age from five to 23 years old.

Crown prosecutor Darlene Oko said the children were part of the reason the Crown agreed to the guilty pleas for second-degree murder.

"Given the trauma of what they've been through, the circumstances of this horrific offence, we didn't wish to traumatize them further and I think having to testify and relive that horrific night would have had that result," she said.

Four of the children are in the custody of community services and have no contact with their father. Two of them were in court Wednesday as their father admitted to the brutal murder of their mother.

Chareka waived his right to a preliminary inquiry.

“He certainly regrets everything, and he’s prepared to go forward from here,” said Chareka’s defence lawyer Gerald MacDonald.

MacDonald said Chareka was facing a lot of stress in his life at the time of his wife’s death.

“Very mixed bag of things. He had lost his employment, there was a family dispute and a family court application pending and all things came together in one terrible climax,” he said.

The Charekas arrived in Fredericton from Zimbabwe in 1993. Patrick had a scholarship to the University of New Brunswick. Ottilia Chareka earned three degrees from UNB in the education faculty and also went on to teach at St. FX. Her educational specialty was multicultural education, human rights and citizenship education.

She was widely known and respected in the community.

Chareka still communicates with his oldest daughter, whom MacDonald said has supported her father through the trial.

Next month, the court will decide how much time Chareka will serve before he’s eligible for parole.