A Colorado man who pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife more than 20 years ago recently led authorities to her body, which was buried under the remains of a World War II veteran.
John Sandoval, 52, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years on parole for his role in the 1995 death of Kristina Tournai-Sandoval, the Denver Post reported.
As part of a plea deal, Sandoval told investigators March 22 that Kristina’s remains were buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens cemetery in Greeley.
Sandoval pleaded guilty but did not admit to murder, CBS Denver reported.
On October 20, 1995, Sandoval located an open grave site early in the morning that was scheduled for a burial later that afternoon at the cemetery where he worked at the time.
Prosecutors say he dug two feet below the grave and buried the body, which was wrapped in industrial-grade plastic.
Cemetery workers unknowingly buried the veteran over her remains.
Detectives found a wet, muddy shovel in Sandoval’s car and muddy clothes inside his home that day.
Once investigators arrested him, they noticed scratch marks on his face, neck, and chest.
Authorities could not file charges at the time because they could not find a body, 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 in a news release Friday. “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.
An appeals court, however, overturned that conviction last year when they found that a judge wrongfully allowed evidence that Sandoval stalked other women, and expert testimony correlating stalkers with murderers.
Prosecutors had been preparing for a new trial when Sandoval told authorities he knew the location of his wife’s body.
Authorities contacted the veteran’s son, Richard Hert, of Casper, Wyoming, who gave the approval for the body to be exhumed in order to find Kristina’s remains, the Greeley Tribune reported.
The Daily Mail reports that Kristina’s remains will be buried in a private ceremony.