Corey Dean Thomas pleaded guilty to strangling Megan Neely and hiding her body in a crawl space.
Corey Dean Thomas hopped a Greyhound bus to Miami a year ago with a one-way ticket, a day or two after hiding his estranged girlfriend's body in a crawl space in her St. Paul apartment.
Florida authorities, alerted by St. Paul police who discovered the body of 27-year-old Megan Neely on their second search of the apartment, arrested Thomas, 32, of St. Paul, shortly after he got off the bus.
On Monday, the ex-con pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Ramsey County District Court, where he will be sentenced in December to up to 33 years in prison.
DNA found in semen on her body and under her fingernails tied him to the slaying.
"This case reminds us of the terrible toll that domestic violence takes on families and the community as a whole," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. "We are grateful for today's plea as it spares the victim's family the pain of a trial and holds the offender accountable."
Police found Neely's body on Oct. 17, 2011, inside the crawl space of her Milton Street apartment. She'd been strangled the day before.
A criminal complaint recounts the slaying and Thomas' flight:
Neely's sister called police on Oct. 15, saying she feared for her sister, whom she couldn't find even though they were supposed to take their kids on an outing that day. Police searched Neely's apartment but turned up no sign of her.
That night, Thomas called his brother, saying he wanted to sell back a car he had bought from him. Thomas said he was leaving town to turn his life around and that he was "tired of Minnesota women."
Friends and family grew more worried after the usually reliable Neely did not pick up her daughter from the child's father Saturday night. He told police that she had sounded sad when he spoke with her that morning. She told him she was breaking up with Thomas and "expected drama."
The sister again called police on Sunday to report that no one had seen Neely and that she hadn't picked up her daughter. She expressed concern about Thomas, who had three felony assault convictions.
That evening, investigators caught up with Thomas, who claimed he and Neely "got into it" and that she had left him. The next day, he sold his car and left for Miami.
Police found Neely's body the same day, during a second search.
Miami police arrested Thomas at a hotel near the airport on a parole violation.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038