Corey Thomas gets 34 years for strangling girlfriend, stuffing her in St. Paul crawl space

Thomas (left) pleaded guilty to killing Neely (right) in October 2011.
Thomas (left) pleaded guilty to killing Neely (right) in October 2011.

When Corey Thomas left Minnesota for Miami in the fall of 2011, he told his brother he was "tired of Minnesota women." The truth is he was really trying to put distance between himself and the spot where he'd stashed his girlfriend's murdered body.

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Yesterday, Thomas, 32, was sentenced to 34 years in prison for strangling Megan Neely and stuffing her body in a tiny crawl space in her North Milton Street St. Paul apartment.

Our blog post from April provides details about the chain of events surrounding Neely's murder:

The story from the criminal complaint starts when Megan Neely, a 27-year-old mother of two, was last seen buying food at a Walmart in West St. Paul on October 14. The next day, she spoke with the father of one of her children, and complained that she'd been up all night fighting with her live-in boyfriend -- Thomas. She planned to leave him and "expected drama." It's the last time anyone heard from her.

The next day, Neely's sister Samantha frantically called Megan's phone, alarmed because Megan was uncharacteristically out of touch. Thomas eventually answered Samantha's call and told her he'd left for Chicago, taking Megan's phone. He claimed he'd paid for it and the last time he saw Megan she was heading for a T-Mobile store.

"Some dude was going to buy her a phone," Thomas would later recount.

The next day, Samantha, increasingly alarmed by the mysterious disappearance of her sister, urged police to intensify their search. They want back to Megan's apartment and eventually found her body stuffed inside a crawl space. A DNA test of skin found under Megan's fingernails and semen found on her body matched Thomas.

Thomas was apprehended as soon as he arrived in Miami. He resisted arrest and had to be Tased but was eventually shipped back to Minnesota and charged with second-degree murder.

During yesterday's hearing, Thomas apologized to Neely's family and characterized Megan's murder as the culmination of an argument over a cell phone that violently escalated.

"I lost my best friend, and I'm sorry for taking her away," Thomas told the courtroom, according to the Pioneer Press.

Thomas said Neely's death was accidentally, but prosecutor Yasmin Mullings doesn't buy it. From the Pioneer Press:

Mullings noted that Thomas previously had been convicted of four violent felonies, including a 2009 case in which he attacked a woman and her stepfather with a box cutter. Mullings said the woman survived but was scarred for life.

If Neely's death were accidental, she said, why didn't he get help for her when he knew he had gone too far?

Not only did Thomas respond to texts from her loved ones as if he were Neely, "he goes so far as to talk to her 10-year-old daughter and tell her he didn't know where her mother is," Mullings said. "He tells her she's probably with another man."

Thomas' sentencing was the third in the state this week involving a boyfriend or girlfriend killing their significant other. Rochelle Inselman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after stalking her ex-boyfriend and eventually shooting him to death. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison. And Mark Chalin was sentenced to just over four years for killing two, including his girlfriend, in a driving-while-having-sex wreck.

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