Man admits to killing ex-wife after argument over money, says he buried her in shallow grave

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Surveillance image of Tricia Todd (left) and Steven Williams (right)

4 Fast Facts

  • Investigation almost closed in Florida woman’s disappearance
  • Police said her ex-husband admits he killed her
  • The two argued over finances and he buried her in a shallow grave
  • The ex-husband agreed to tell investigators where he buried her

HOBE SOUND, Fla. — Tricia Todd’s family is finally getting some closure.

The Florida mother has been missing for nearly a month; she was last seen in a grocery store near her Hobe Sound home on April 26.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder announced Thursday that Todd’s ex-husband Steven Williams pleaded no-contest to second-degree murder. He confessed to killing his ex-wife during an argument over finances.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, announced by Snyder near the site where he believes Todd is buried, Williams will spend 35 years in a Florida state prison, provided he leads authorities to her body.

Williams told authorities that Todd is buried in a shallow grave in a remote part of Hobe Sound’s Hungryland State Preserve, and Williams, along with his public defender and law enforcement officials, led them to the area.

“We’ve already located a freshly dug area and we have every indication that the body is there,” Snyder said. “Bringing us to the body is expressly part of his plea.”

The plea, agreed upon by Todd’s family and the district attorney’s office, charges Williams with second-degree murder, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, rather than first-degree murder, which would make him eligible for the death penalty.

Snyder said the plea arrangement was offered in the hopes of bringing closure to Todd’s family. “In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have happened. I think we’ve done the very best we can,” Snyder said. “The family’s agreed with what we’ve done and we make a decision based on what we knew at the time.”

While Snyder still considers the method and motive a mystery, he says Williams confessed to arguing with his ex-wife over finances and that he pushed her and she fell, hitting her head. Even after his confession, Snyder says that Williams changed his story about what he did with the body.

As chances for finding Todd’s body grew more remote, authorities negotiated the plea with Williams. “A body buried in an area this big, we could not roll the dice,” Snyder said. “We wanted to get the body back and bring closure to the family.”

Williams, a member of the Air Force, returned to Florida from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina at the request of authorities. He could face additional federal penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as he was an active member of the armed forces at the time the crime was committed.

Representatives from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Todd’s family thanked authorities for their efforts during their difficult time. “We are grateful to know that we will now be able to lay Tricia to rest with the grace and dignity that she deserves, family spokesperson Shaun Plymale said. “Although this is not the outcome we wanted, we are incredibly grateful that Tricia is now home.”

Williams is being held in the Martin County Jail without bond and will be formally sentenced on June 24.

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