DENVER (AP) — A Colorado man who pleaded guilty Friday 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, 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 March 22 the remains were buried at a Greeley cemetery.
Prosecutors said that in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 1995, Sandoval found an open gravesite that was scheduled for a burial later that afternoon. He dug about 2 feet (0.61 meters) below the open grave and buried 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 also noticed scratch marks on various parts of his body.
But because they had not found the
"For 7,826 days, 3 hours and 22 minutes, the location of Tina's remains has been a mystery. ... Over the course of the last week, we have finally been able to give her family what they so desperately wanted," Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said in a news release Friday. "Tina has been returned to her family and may finally be laid to rest."
Sandoval was convicted in 2010 of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. But an appeals court overturned his case last year, ruling that 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.
According to court records, Sandoval met with his wife Oct. 19, 1995, to settle a debt before finalizing 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.