Florida sheriff: NC airman used chainsaw to cut up ex-wife's body
Posted May 27
Raleigh, N.C. — Authorities in Florida said Friday that they believe a North Carolina-based airman who was charged in the death of his ex-wife used a chainsaw to cut up her body before disposing of it in a nature preserve.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Williams, the former husband of Florida resident Tricia Todd, was charged with second-degree murder after Todd disappeared in April. Williams is assigned as a field training detachment instructor at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.
The Martin County Sheriff's Office in Florida said Thursday that Williams agreed to lead authorities to Todd's body inside the Hungryland State Preserve, near Jupiter, Fla., as part of a deal to plead guilty to second-degree murder and receive a 35-year sentence. Todd's family agreed to the deal in hopes of finding closure, authorities said.
Sheriff William Snyder said Friday that investigators have found partial remains of Todd's body inside a container that was filled with a liquid believed to be acid and was buried at the preserve. Forensic teams were combing the area Friday after dogs pinpointed a number of places where remains or other evidence might be located, Snyder said.
"We will not be satisfied until we find all of her remains," he said.
Authorities haven't determined how or where Todd was killed, and they are still searching for the chainsaw they believe was used to dismember her, he said.
"Based on the current conditions of the remains, we may never know how she died. It depends on the state of the other remains, if found," Snyder said. "Because of the way the dogs were alerting, we need to expand out until we find a chainsaw or murder weapon."
Snyder and Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl defended the plea deal with Williams, saying authorities never would have found Todd's remains without his cooperation.
"It’s an unfortunate reality that, in this job, you must occasionally make a deal with the devil, and I made a deal with the devil," Bakkedahl said.
"I would have done the exact same deal" if it were my daughter, Snyder said. "No amount of a sentence was going to bring Tricia Todd back. The family can at least have answers and put her to rest and put their fears to rest."
Bakkedahl said a court could still nullify the plea deal if Williams doesn't help investigators recover the rest of Todd's remains.
"I do believe, based on what transpired out here yesterday and where we are today, that he did not comply with the terms of the agreement," Bakkedahl said.
If the plea deal is thrown out and Williams goes to trial in the case, the prosecutor said he will use the evidence investigators recover from the nature preserve to "put this man on a slow bus to death row."