Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A Houston-area man was charged Thursday with capital murder in the deaths of his estranged wife and her unborn child after allegedly confessing to friends that he strangled her.
Police found the body of Melissa Rene Sowders, 26, Thursday in Cypress Creek. She disappeared Dec. 26 after she had arranged to meet with her estranged husband, Matthew Sowders, 26, at a nearby McDonald's so she could see their youngest daughter, family members said.
The couple had filed for divorce in the fall after nine years of marriage. Matthew Sowders had custody of their four children, all under the age of 8.
Two acquaintances of Matthew Sowders told police the man confessed to them that he strangled his wife. One neighbor said she visited his apartment on the afternoon of Dec. 26 and observed the legs and feet of what appeared to be a lifeless body inside before he quickly shut the door.
The neighbor later called police, who had her call Matthew Sowders while investigators listened in on the line. Prosecutor Hans Nielsen said the man confessed to strangling his wife on the phone call.
Another female friend of Matthew Sowders said he came over to her apartment later that day with muddy and wet clothes.
"She said that the defendant told her he had strangled Melissa to death after she pulled a gun on him. He told her he blacked out. When he came to, she was dead. He said he stuffed her into a large black trash can and transported her to Cypress Creek. And there he submerged her body," Nielsen said.
Melissa Sowders' family suspects her estranged husband killed her after he discovered she was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby.
Matthew Sowders was held without bail. If convicted, he could receive life in prison or the death penalty.
[Houston Chronicle] [KHOU-TV, Houston]