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Arizona man pleads guilty to murder in wife’s death less than a week after reporting her missing | KTVE

Rio Yamato And Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press

1 hour ago

Flagstaff Police Chief Sean Connolly announces the guilty plea in the disappearance and death of Kelly Padukowski, Friday, July 5, 2024, in Flagstaff, Arizona. The woman's husband, Daniel Padukowski, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in her death. (Hattie Roper/Arizona Daily Sun via The Associated Press)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Less than a week after an Arizona man reported his wife missing, sparking a massive search that quickly turned into a criminal investigation, he admitted to killing her and pleaded guilty to murder charges, authorities said Friday.

As part of a deal with Coconino County prosecutors, Daniel Padukowski pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kelly, 45. He also pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence, concealing a body and possession of dangerous drugs, according to a copy of the plea agreement.

The agreement, reached early Friday morning before the Flagstaff Police Department held an afternoon press conference, marks a remarkably quick resolution to a murder case that began days earlier and could have taken years to make its way through the justice system.

At a press conference, Flagstaff Police Chief Sean Connolly emphasized that it had only been six days since authorities were notified of Kelly Padukowski's disappearance.

“I went to the barbershop. I went to the dry cleaners. I went to restaurants and businesses and everybody was concerned about this,” he said. “When a community is not complacent and is engaged at this level, these are the results you get.”

Authorities have not released details about what led to the killing, and the plea agreement did not include any information suggesting a motive.

An attorney for Padukowski did not immediately respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.

Daniel Padukowski, 58, faces a sentence of 16 years in prison without parole for murder, said Michael Tunink, senior attorney for the Coconino County Prosecutor's Office. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Authorities said Padukowski called Flagstaff police Sunday night to say his wife had not returned home after going for a jog and swim at Lake Mary, southeast of Flagstaff.

Police said the woman's relatives quickly began to suspect Daniel Padukowski was involved in his wife's disappearance after spotting her car across town.

By Monday morning, the missing persons case had been investigated as a homicide, police said. Flagstaff police announced the arrest of Daniel Padukowski the following day.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Daniel Padukowski provided authorities with information about his wife's body, as well as evidence including his cellphone, car keys and the weapon allegedly used in the killing, Tunnink said.

Flagstaff police said they found Kelly Padukowski's body Friday morning but did not release the location, saying a “search effort” was ongoing.

Authorities said the search for Kelly Padukowski was extensive, involving local and federal agencies and about 50 search and rescue personnel searching on foot, by helicopter, mountain bike, with search dogs and drones. Police said about 60 local volunteers also helped with the search.

Flagstaff Police Chief Connolly said Friday that authorities are in constant contact with relatives, including the victims' children.

“From the moment I sat in their living room with Kelly's family, I cannot express to you how impressed I was with their strength and determination in dealing with this incredibly tragic situation,” he said.


Yamato reported from Las Vegas.

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