A Georgetown, Texas, woman pleaded guilty to helping her husband fake his own death by digging up a corpse from a cemetery and then staging a fiery car accident in which the body was burned beyond recognition.
Molly Daniels pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and hindering apprehension. A jury awarded the maximum sentence – 20 years in prison, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Her husband, Clayton Wayne Daniels, is jailed pending trial on arson charges.
Daniels cried on the stand and told jurors she was sorry for what she had done, the Statesman reported.
She testified her husband was to dig up the grave of 81-year-old Charlotte Davis, a woman with mental retardation who had been dead for six months. The woman’s body was to be dressed in tennis shoes, jeans and a baseball cap with a fish hook attached.
After that, her husband was to put the body in a car, push it off a roadside cliff and burn the body and the vehicle, she said.
“We felt because she was older, there would not be much family impact, if any,” Molly Daniels told the jury.
Prosecutors said a few weeks later, his wife introduced her 4-year-old son to her new boyfriend, Jake Gregg—actually Daniels with his hair dyed black.
In court, investigators said the June 18 wreck, in which the green Chevrolet was found scorched and at the bottom of a cliff, had seemed fishy from the start.
There were no skid marks on the road, they said, and an investigator found that the fire started in the driver’s seat and was helped along by charcoal lighter fluid.
Texas Ranger Garth Davis also testified that when he interviewed Molly Daniels about the crash, she was surprisingly calm. Davis took a DNA sample from the charred body and from Clayton Daniels’ mother and found the body was not Daniels’.
Davis said searches of the couple’s home and Molly Daniels’ work computer also revealed a complicated scheme to create a new identity for Daniels, including fake birth certificates and a Texas driver’s license under the name Jacob Alexander Gregg.
Assistant District Attorney Jane Starnes blamed greed, pointing to a $110,000 life insurance policy. Officials also said the staged death came days before Clayton Daniels was to report to jail for failing to report to his probation officer. He had been given probation for a sexual assault of a young girl.
Defense lawyer Thomas Vasquez said Molly Daniels’ motive was fear that her children, ages 4 and 1, would not have been allowed to have contact with their father under terms of his sentence.
“It was about keeping our family together,” she testified.
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