EVERETT — Michele Donohue kept a deadly secret for almost a decade.
On Friday, the Arlington woman came clean, admitting that she killed her husband, Byron Wright, in 2004 and buried him in the backyard of their Arlington home.
Donohue pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a Snohomish County courtroom filled with Wright’s family and friends. In exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Cindy Larsen agreed to recommend a 15-year prison sentence.
Donohue faces up to 18 years when she’s sentenced later this month.
Wright’s disappearance has been a mystery since the fall of 2004 when he failed to show up for his long-held job at the Boeing Co.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives found his dismembered body in February, inside a plastic tote and two bags buried under two feet of dirt and a cement floor. An autopsy showed that Wright was stabbed multiple times in the head and neck. He was 53.
For years Donohue told the slain man’s family, the courts and others that Wright had left her for a younger woman. She claimed that he left everything behind, including his beloved car collection.
Donohue divorced Wright in October 2004, likely a short time after she killed him.
September of that same year she ordered four loads of dirt. She claimed to be making a hill for her daughter to use sledding.
She later remarried and confessed to her new husband that she stabbed Wright. After the attack, she said Wright asked her to call an ambulance. She refused because Wright wouldn’t apologize, according to court papers. Donohue told her new husband she dismembered Wright in the kitchen and buried him in a shallow grave next to the shop. She bought some dirt to hide the grave.
Her new husband and his two buddies eventually dug up Wright’s body and buried him under a shop floor. Donohue was afraid she would lose the house to foreclosure and wanted her secret hidden, under cement.
Her plan began unraveling late last year when a jail inmate revealed to sheriff’s detectives that there was a body hidden on Donohue’s property on Wade Road.
The informant explained that there was illegal activity going on there, including a “chop shop.” He became nervous that Donohue might call the cops to get back at her current husband.
The informant said Donohue’s husband mistreated her and had moved his younger, pregnant girlfriend onto the property.
One of the men who helped moved Wright’s body assured the informant that Donohue wouldn’t call police because she had killed her ex-husband.
The informant later agreed to wear a wire while talking to one of the body movers. The man admitted to his part in covering up the killing while speaking with the wired informant.
Donohue also was caught on tape complaining about her current husband and making statements about “hoping someone would get rid of him.”
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, firstname.lastname@example.org.