PORT LAVACA - A Seadrift wife pleaded guilty to her husband's murder.
Janice Bonnell, 45, pleaded guilty on Thursday for the April 24 murder of Brett A. Bonnell, 40. She received a 45-year sentence and must spend 22 and a half years in prison before being considered for parole, Calhoun County District Attorney Dan Heard said.
"Through good investigative work and persistence, they were able to uncover that this was in fact a cover-up murder," Heard, who prosecuted the case, said about investigators.
Brett Bonnell's body was found on the shoulder of Old Seadrift Highway next to his parked car. Investigators thought the death could have been a hit-and-run accident.
When evidence of a wreck didn't add up after forensic investigation, Janice Bonnell confessed to investigators and was indicted on Aug. 28.
Investigators verified that Bonnell hit her husband with a wooden bat while he slept in their travel trailer home in Seadrift.
Bonnell placed her husband's body to make it appear he had been killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Janice Bonnell originally told investigators that her sister, Betty Roney, 50, helped plant the body, Sheriff B.B. Browning said.
Roney remains in the Calhoun County Jail on a possession of marijuana charge and other charges from out-of-state warrants, Heard said.
After their June 28 arrest, Bonnell claimed she had been abused and said she killed her husband out of fear for her own safety, according to a news release from the district attorney's office.
Those claims turned out false, Heard said.
The Bonnells had moved to Seadrift from Indiana a few months before the murder. Family and friends back home in Indiana were glad to see justice done.
Brett Bonnell had some problems, but he got along well with people and worked hard to support his family, Helmut Meng, supervisor of Erwin Gardens in Columbus, Ind., said.
Meng, 57, hired Brett 14 years ago to work on the estate grounds.
"Initially, we were stunned," Meng said about finding out a friend died.
Meng had talked to Brett just two weeks earlier, who seemed excited about a job interview.
"He just sounded so happy," Meng said. "In my heart, I'm thinking, 'I really hope things work out for Brett.'"
But friends warned him about staying with his wife and following her to Texas, he said. But he didn't want his marriage to fall apart, Meng added.
Meng said Janice Bonnell was always in control and he fell victim to the whims of his wife and her sister.
"How do you explain a criminal mind? You would hate to think it was for that measly, little insurance money," he said. "It was sad, it really was."