By Jonathan Kaminsky
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A Louisiana man who had long been a suspect in the brutal 1985 slaying of woman at a secluded pet cemetery where he worked as a groundskeeper pleaded guilty on Friday to manslaughter in her death, authorities said.
Brandon Nodier, 60, agreed to a 10-year sentence as part of a plea agreement in the death of Dorothy Thompson, who was strangled in rural St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans, before her chained body was dumped in the Mississippi River, St. Bernard Sheriff's Office Colonel John Doran said.
Police reopened the case in 2009 after a witness came forward saying Nodier had told him he was the killer and that Thompson's ghost was haunting the witness's dreams, Doran said.
"Some form of justice has been served," Doran said. "Ten years is better than none."
Thompson, who was 61 at the time of her death, had been the owner of the pet cemetery. The killing occurred after Nodier duped Thompson into transferring possession of the property to him, then feared he would lose it after she sued to have the transaction voided, Doran said.
After the case was reopened, Doran's team interviewed dozens of witnesses who painted Nodier as a fearsome con man who had taken advantage of Thompson. The investigators also met with state police investigators who had worked the case in the 1980s and had pegged Nodier as the killer but had never been able to prove it.
During the investigation, a man who was serving time in prison contacted police and said he had witnessed the slaying.
The man, who police have not named, told investigators and later a grand jury that as Nodier's assistant groundskeeper at the cemetery he was present at Thompson's killing and was intimidated by Nodier into 28 years of silence, Doran said.
After police reopened their investigation, Nodier visited the man in prison, told him to keep quiet about the killing and warned that he knew where his wife lived, Doran said.
Nodier was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in 2012. Prosecutors were wary of a trial due to the loss of evidence including crime scene photos in Hurricane Katrina and the eyewitness's reluctance to testify, Doran said.
Both prosecutors and Nodier's attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Will Dunham)