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A Florida maintenance worker is accused of killing a 57-year-old homeowner he worked for and burying her remains in a septic tank, authorities said.
Cynthia Cole’s suspected remains were uncovered in a septic tank at her Jensen Beach home — 1 miles east of Port St. Lucie — over the weekend following her disappearance last month. Keoki Hilo Demich, 34, was subsequently arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Authorities, who are waiting for the medical examiner to positively identify the body as Cole's as part of the autopsy, discovered her corpse in a “green sewer-type pipe” on Friday, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. A handful of investigators were seen processing the site over the weekend.
“Detectives spent hours excavating Cole’s backyard, and located the body submerged in the contents of the tank about four feet underground,” the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on March 5.
Officials are waiting on autopsy results to also verify the Florida woman’s cause, manner, and approximate time of death. On Monday morning, a representative for Martin County Medical Examiner deferred all inquiries surrounding the case to county authorities.
“There are elements to this case still being investigated,” the sheriff’s statement added. “Positive identification of the body by the medical examiner’s office is expected shortly, however, detectives have every reason to believe it is that of Ms. Cole.”
Demich worked as Cole’s handyman, according to law enforcement. A specific motive in her slaying hasn’t yet been released.
Cole was reported missing by a friend on March 2.
The individual told detectives that Cole hadn’t been heard from since posting on social media while attending a concert in Jensen Beach on Feb. 24. The friend noted that Cole typically uploaded posts on a daily basis. She said Cole was “not one to disappear,” police documents stated. Cole’s vehicle, a gray 2015 Jeep Cherokee was also last seen on a nearby highway.
Police, who later interviewed other friends, told law enforcement Cole was last seen leaving a Mulligan’s restaurant near Jensen Beach Boulevard in Jensen Beach at around 8 p.m.
Police, who later responded to the single woman’s home, found no signs of a struggle or anything out of the ordinary. The woman’s phone, which had run out of battery, was found at the property. A shotgun was found leaning against the wall in the home’s master bedroom.
Jason Garland, another handyman employed by Cole, told authorities he’d traveled to Tennessee on Feb. 19 and had recently returned. He told investigators he’d given Cole a shotgun prior to leaving because she was “afraid,” a missing persons report, obtained by Oxygen.com, stated. According to police, Garland didn’t elaborate on why Cole had been frightened.
Authorities later retrieved messages sent between Cole and Demich’s phones around the time of her disappearance.
“Hey key, sent you some money to finish the house off I’ll call you Saturday morning when I’m on my way,” read a text sent from Cole’s phone to Demich on Feb. 25 at 2:39 a.m. — well after the concert.
A Cash App transaction, totaling $567.75, was later sent from the woman’s phone to a mobile account belonging to Demich.
Investigators interviewed Demich and learned the 35-year-old frequently performed odd jobs at Cole’s property on weekends. He claimed she only paid him in cash and insisted he’d last seen the Florida woman a couple days before her disappearance while inspecting an air conditioner at her residence.
Detectives, however, were unable to locate Cole’s text message on Demich’s phone from the night of her suspected disappearance, indicating that he possibly deleted it.
Demich allegedly provided conflicting stories, first claiming to police that he’d lost his mobile phone at a gas station, before stating that he’d misplaced it while riding his bicycle to work on Feb. 25. He also denied receiving any online transactions from Cole to police.
Demich also admitted to lying “often,” the arrest affidavit stated.
Cole’s Jeep was recovered by authorities on March 4 in a parking lot in Stuart, Florida, approximately a mile from Demich’s home. Surveillance video later showed an individual matching Demich’s description walking around the vehicle. Police later learned Demich had taken a Lyft from his home in Stuart to Cole’s property in Jensen Beach around 7 p.m. the night she vanished.
Detectives, who again responded to and combed over Cole’s home, later found what they believe is her nude body lodged in a pipe in the backyard. The woman had sustained an apparent gash to her face and was missing a tooth.
Demich, who admitted he caught a ride share to Cole’s home on the night she went missing, claimed he’d gone to her home to collect money he was owed for home maintenance. He alleged he’d walked home after meeting her. After denying he’d driven Cole’s Jeep, Demich later insisted that the slain Florida woman had instructed him to take her vehicle to the Stuart parking lot.
Authorities, however, said data from Cole’s phone indicated that the final location it had been active was in the vicinity of the parking lot at 4 a.m. on Feb. 25.
Demich is being held at a Martin County detention center, according to jail records. His bond was set at $750,000 and he made his first appearance in court on Monday. It’s unclear if he’s retained or been appointed legal representation.
No further information was released by law enforcement this week. The case remains active and ongoing.
Demich is a convicted sex offender. In 2004, Demich was found guilty on residential burglary with sexual motivation charges in Thurston County, Washington. According to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com, the victim was 12 years old and Demich was 21 at the time. He was again arrested in 2019 for failing to report his sexual offender status after moving from Martin County to Fort Pierce, Florida. He was ultimately found guilty, court records show.
A spokesperson for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment on the open case on Monday morning.
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