The Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that they are working to identify the remains found in the yard of Johnny Edwards Malisham, 60.
A tipster told the Butler County Sheriff's Office in Alabama on Sunday that Malisham killed Cynthia Hoover, 60, with a hatchet and then buried her body under a burn pit behind his home near Milton, WEAR reported.
They alerted officials in Santa Rosa County, and they began searching the yard, the sheriff's office said on Facebook.
Hoover was last seen March 8, and her ransacked car was found along Interstate 10 two days later, the report said.
WEAR reported that the woman who tipped authorities said Malisham had tried to get her to help him with the body. The woman has known Malisham for about 15 years, an arrest report said.
The woman told investigators Malisham asked her to be a lookout while he buried the body, and threatened her if she refused, the report said. She ran to her home when she heard Malisham dragging the woman's body, WEAR reported.
According to the woman, Malisham later told her he drove Hoover’s car to I-10 and abandoned it. He then threw her keys in the river. She said he called her to pick him up, but she refused. So he called another woman who brought him home. Investigators said the other woman is elderly and did not remember much about the incident.
Carol Miller, who lives two houses away from Malisham, told WEAR he often cut grass for the neighbors and was friendly. She said she could not believe it when she saw investigators digging up his backyard.
“They just let us know John was safe. We never thought ’yeah, he’s safe in jail,” she told the television station.
He now faces up to life in prison, Santa Rosa Sheriff Bob Johnson said.
“Obviously you take a life, you need to forfeit a life,” he said.
Malisham remains in the Santa Rosa County Jail. Jail records do not list an attorney for him.