After spending almost 18 years denying that he had anything to do with his wife's disappearance, Norman Bachman Jr. has pleaded guilty to causing her death.
Bachman, who told police that Toni Bachman had left him when she went missing in 1997, entered his plea on a charge of manslaughter on Friday as part of an agreement with prosecutors, the Ramsey County Attorney's office announced.
Under the deal, a second-degree murder charge against Bachman will be dropped. County Attorney John Choi said in a statement Friday that Bachman also agreed to help lead investigators to his wife's body, which has never been found. If the body is discovered, Bachman's sentence will be reduced from 13 years in prison to 10, Choi says.
WCCO reports Bachman entered his guilty plea at a Friday court hearing, explaining how he had strangled his wife during an argument, then hid her body in the basement of their White Bear Township home for two days before dismembering her.
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The Star Tribune says Bachman made his confession matter -of-factly on the witness stand Friday, explaining that in the days after the killing he'd used a filet knife and hand saw to decapitate his wife and remove her limbs.
Bachman has described to investigators where he buried his wife's body but five searches of the area have not found it, the newspaper says.
The plea agreement comes some six months after Bachman's arrest, which followed the Ramsey County Sheriff reopening the case in 2012. Bachman had maintained his innocence until the agreement announced Friday.
An initial investigation in 1997 turned up blood and bone fragments at the Bachmans' home. But as KARE 11 reports, prosecutors did not feel they had enough evidence to charge Norman Bachman with a crime at that time.
KSTP says new technology allowed investigators to link the bone fragments to Toni Bachman.
The criminal complaint charging Norman Bachman with manslaughter says he and his wife of 10 years had been discussing divorce at the time of her disappearance, and says Toni was communicating daily with a man from West Virginia she had met on the Internet.
More than a decade later, one of Bachman's three sons told investigators that, during an argument, his father admitted killing Toni, but said "nobody could prove it."
After Friday's hearing Toni Bachman's brother, Tim Reineccius, tearfully thanked investigators for never giving up on the cold case, KSTP says.
Sentencing for Norman Bachman is set for Dec. 11.