Arizona man pleads guilty to murdering his wife less than a week after reporting her missing

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

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

The agreement, reached earlier Friday before Flagstaff police held an afternoon news conference, marks a stunning and swift resolution to a murder case that was opened just days earlier and could otherwise have taken years to work through the legal system.

During the press conference, Flagstaff Police Chief Sean Connolly stressed that authorities were only notified of Kelly Paduchowski’s disappearance six days ago.

“I’ve been to the hairdresser. I’ve been to the dry cleaners. I’ve been to restaurants and businesses, and this was on everyone’s minds,” he said. “When communities are not indifferent, and they’re engaged at this level, these are the results you get.”

Authorities did not provide details about what may have led to the killing, nor did the plea agreement provide information about a possible motive.

Paduchowski’s attorney did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

Michael Tunink, a senior attorney with the Coconino County district attorney’s office, said Daniel Paduchowski, 58, is expected to be sentenced to 16 years without the possibility of parole for the murder charge. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Authorities said Paduchowski called Flagstaff police Sunday night and said his wife had not returned after leaving to go running and swimming in Lake Mary, southeast of Flagstaff.

Police said they quickly became suspicious that Daniel Paduchowski was involved in his wife’s disappearance after the woman’s relatives found her car across town.

By Monday morning, police said, the missing persons case had turned into a homicide investigation. The Flagstaff Police Department announced the arrest of Daniel Paduchowski the next day.

As part of his deal with prosecutors, Daniel Paduchowski provided authorities with information about his wife’s remains and other evidence, including her cellphone, car keys and a gun allegedly used to kill her, Tunink said.

Flagstaff police said they found Kelly Paduchowski’s remains Friday morning, but they did not release the location, citing active “recovery efforts.”

Authorities said the search for Kelly Paduchowski was extensive, including local and federal agencies, nearly 50 search and rescue personnel on foot, by helicopter and by mountain bike, as well as sniffer dogs and drones. About 60 people from the community also volunteered for the search, police said.

Connolly, the Flagstaff police chief, said Friday that authorities are in ongoing contact with the victim’s family members, including her children.

“Since the moment I sat in the living room with Kelly’s family, I have been in awe of their strength and determination to deal with this incredibly tragic situation,” he said.


Yamat reported from Las Vegas.

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