ST. PAUL, Minn. - A St. Paul man has been has been handed the maximum sentence for strangling a woman he called his "best friend."
Corey Thomas was sentenced Tuesday to 34 years behind bars after earlier pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder. During sentencing the 32-year-old Thomas apologized in Ramsey County District Court to the family of Megan Neely.
Neely, a 27-year-old mother of two, was strangled in October of 2011 and her body stuffed in a crawl space at her apartment. Prosecutors said Thomas could not accept the fact that Neely wanted out of their relationship.
"Although it will not bring the victim back to her family, we are pleased with the judge's sentence in this case," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "A daughter, sister and a mother was tragically taken from our community as a result of the defendant's actions."
Police found Neely's body October 17 inside a crawl space at her home on Milton Avenue in St. Paul. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner determined that she died sometime before 2:45 p.m. on October 16 of asphyxia due to strangulation.
The victim's sister notified police that Megan was missing on October 15 but a preliminary search of the apartment by police found nothing. Neely's sister told authorities at the time that her sister was breaking up with the defendant and that Megan "expected drama." Police investigators spoke with Thomas later that afternoon where he stated that he and the victim "got into it," after which she broke up with him.
Investigators tracking Thomas say he quickly sold his car and boarded a one-way bus to Miami. Miami police arrested him at the airport and questioned him about the murder in St. Paul.
Thomas told authorities scratches they noticed on his neck were from a workplace injury, a claim his manager said was untrue. A test of DNA recovered from under Neely's fingernails matched the suspect.
"Too often, cases of domestic violence result in homicide," Choi lamented.
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