Fla. Woman Vanished After Seeking Divorce from Husband, Who Now Admits Crime and Leads Cops to Body
David Anthony at left and Gretchen Anthony
Nine months ago when his wife went missing, David Anthony tried to throw people off who were looking for her by texting her phone stating that she was in the hospital with COVID-19. On Monday, Anthony pleaded guilty to murdering her - and at least told the police where to find her body.
Gretchen Anthony's family "wanted a real memorial and a funeral. They didn't know where their daughter was," Palm Beach District Attorney Dave Aronberg told a press conference Monday after the body was recovered.
"We hope this will close the family once Gretchen is found," said Daniel Kerr, Jupiter police chief.
Authorities still do not know how Gretchen died, but offered to only charge David with murder and second degree kidnapping if he agreed to point them out to the remains of his estranged wife.
David accepted the plea and admitted guilty before Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen Monday, agreeing to be sentenced to 38 years in prison, reports The Palm Beach Post.
RELATED: Fla. Wife still goes missing weeks after filing a petition for divorce on her husband, who is charged with murder
51-year-old Gretchen was reportedly last seen at her home in Jupiter on March 20. At the time, the couple was in the middle of a divorce, which they filed along with a trial on February 28.
On March 26, members of Gretchen's family reported that she was missing.
Jupiter Police Department David Anthony
Meanwhile, "suspicious" text messages from Gretchen were received by at least five people on March 23 and 24, according to an arrest report obtained from WPTV. The sender claimed Gretchen was infected with an "acute case" of COVID-19 and checked in with a CDC-approved task force after checking out at Jupiter Medical Center. At least one of the messages said it had been quarantined for 14 days.
Authorities located Gretchen's abandoned Mini Cooper in the medical center's parking lot, and surveillance video revealed that David was the one who parked him there.
David, 43, was arrested on March 31st in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Police said a corpse dog trained to recognize the smell of the decomposition caught a smell in Gretchen's house after she disappeared. When David was found and arrested, a second corpse dog also alerted David's black 2016 Nissan Frontier pickup.
RELATED: Friend Said Fla. Mother, she should stay away from the husband - then the woman disappeared and he was charged
Surveillance cameras from Gretchen's apartment and neighbors' statements have further linked David to Gretchen's death and disappearance, "which allegedly occurred on March 21," police said in an earlier statement.
Around 6:15 a.m. that day, Gretchen's door video device arrested a man on the porch of her house when Gretchen got out. There was a muffled shouting. A neighbor later said he heard a "blood clotted scream" from Gretchen's house.
A separate video captured by a camera in the house's garage showed the head of someone with fair hair who didn't move - Gretchen was blonde - and a nearby pitcher of water with what appeared to be blood on it, police said. The garage video then showed David reaching down with a gloved hand to pull the camera down.
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The next day, neighbors reported they smelled a mixture of water and chemicals from the garage. Police later found bleach stains in the garage and in an in-house washing machine, "towels with a reddish substance that looked like blood," the arrest report said.
The surveillance video in the medical center showed David parking Gretchen's vehicle on March 24th, which tested positive for blood on the steering wheel and gearshift.
On March 25th, Gretchen's cell phone "pinged" at 12:15 pm. near Pensacola just before attempting to mortgage women's jewelry in a jewelry store, WPTV reports. Her phone rang later in Texas.
The plea, approved by David and the prosecution, prevents him from being charged with additional or enhanced crimes that could be exposed through an autopsy on Gretchen's body. A second degree murder conviction results in a maximum sentence for life in prison.
But the prosecutor said he viewed the result as a success. "We were able to find her body that we didn't have before," said Aronberg.
David is officially sentenced on January 14th.
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