JACKSON, Mo. (AP) -- A southeast Missouri man has pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife, a mother of triplets who was missing for almost two years before her body was found in Illinois last week.
Clay Waller of Jackson pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the death of Jacque Waller. She had been missing since June 1, 2011, the same day the couple met with a divorce lawyer and argued over money.
Clay Waller was charged in his wife’s death last year even though her body had not yet been found. He had faced a September trial in Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court.
On Thursday, h
On Thursday, he was sentenced to 20 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections according to KFVS.
"20 years in prison is not what you deserve, but it will have to do," said Judge Benjamin Lewis.
The stipulations of the plea deal were that Waller had to provide the location of the body, law enforcement had to find the body, and he had to recount how he killed Jacque.
He told officials he struck Jacque in the head and face with his fist, put his forearm on her neck, and suffocated her with all of his body weight.
When the judge asked him where he did it, he said at his house in Jackson on Woodland Drive.
"We got into an argument," Clay Waller said. "I lost my temper and I caused her death."
Jacque Waller’s sister, Cheryl Brenneke, has custody of their 7-year-old triplets. Clay Waller is currently serving a five-year term in federal prison for threatening Brenneke over the Internet.
Brenneke gave a victim impact statements and talked for about 10 minutes. Waller fidgeted from foot to foot as Brenneke was talking. He never turned to look at her.
In a statement on their Facebook page Waller’s family confirmed “with a heavy heart” that Jacque Waller’s remains were found. The statement said funeral arrangements have not been made.
“We thank everyone of you who has supported us and assisted us in this terrible nightmare,” the statement read.
Messages seeking comment from a spokeswoman for Waller’s family were not returned, but Brenneke told the Southeast Missourian newspaper that she was in shock.
“You anticipate how you’re going to feel for two years,” Brenneke said. “You just can’t prepare yourself, really. You just can’t.”
Authorities said the couple had been living apart for about three months—she was living in Ste. Genevieve County, he was living in Jackson. They met with an attorney about divorce proceedings on June 1, 2011. Police said they argued then about financial problems.
By that evening, Jacque Waller’s relatives were becoming worried because they had not heard from her. Her father, Stan Rawson, has said his daughter had previously confided to Brenneke that Clay Waller had threatened her.
Jacque Waller’s Honda Pilot was found along Interstate 55 a day after she disappeared. Several searches since then have turned up sporadic leads, including the discovery of her purse near where the car was found.
The FBI said last year that Clay Waller suggested to his father that he had broken Jacque Waller’s neck and buried her in a hole that he had dug in advance. But Clay Waller has not made any confession to police, and his father died before he could testify.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.