A man who pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife more than two decades ago recently led authorities to her body, which was buried under the grave of a World War II veteran.
John Sandoval, 52, from Colorado, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1995 death of Kristina Tournai-Sandoval.
As part of a plea deal, he told investigators the remains were buried at a Greeley cemetery.
Sandoval found an open grave site early in the morning on 20 October, 1995, that was scheduled for a burial that afternoon.
Prosecutors say he dug about two feet (0.61m) below the grave and buried Ms Tournai-Sandoval’s body, which was wrapped in several layers of industrial-grade plastic.
Cemetery workers then unknowingly buried the veteran over her remains.
That day, detectives found a wet and muddy shovel in Sandoval’s car and muddy clothes inside his home. After he was arrested, investigators noticed scratch marks on his face, neck and chest.
Charges were not filed at the time because authorities could not find the body, any witnesses or a crime scene.
“For 7,826 days, 3 hours and 22 minutes, the location of Tina’s remains has been a mystery,” Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said.
“Over the course of the last week, we have finally been able to give her family what they so desperately wanted.”
Sandoval was convicted in 2010 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. But an appeals court overturned his conviction last year, ruling a judge wrongfully allowed evidence that Sandoval stalked other women, as well as expert testimony correlating stalkers with murderers.
Prosecutors had been preparing for a new trial when Sandoval acknowledged knowing the location of his wife’s body.
Court records show Sandoval had met with his wife to settle a debt before finalising their divorce.
Before the meeting, she warned family members that if anything happened to her, her husband was responsible. She also arranged to talk with her sister by phone after the meeting.