Prosecutor Don Valeska with the Alabama Attorney General's office said Wilding decided to take a plea deal because he did not want to face the possibility of life in prison without parole.
The plea marks the second time Wilding has been convicted of manslaughter charges. In an unrelated case from 1970, Wilding admitted to killing his then mother-in-law in Kentucky.
Wilding and his wife Judie co-owned a small pet store on Vaughn Road called Ani-Mall. Mrs. Wilding operated the store until her disappearance on April 1, 2000. Her employees became concerned and called police when she didn't show up for work the next day. They reported that they had seen Mr. Wilding in rages against his wife in recent days and that he had taken a razor blade to images of animals at the store.
For years, Wilding stuck to claims that his wife had simply walked out on him. It wasn't until she was declared legally dead in 2004 that Wilding cashed in a life insurance policy for $815,000. The entire time he continued paying premiums, totaling more than $30,000 as if she were alive.
In reality, Valeska said said Mrs. Wilding's business was failing and Mr. Wilding was preparing to shut down the pet store. When she told her husband of more than 20 years she was filing for divorce, "He could not handle that," Valeska said.
More than a decade after Judie Wilding vanished, the answer to what happened to her finally saw light. Valeska said Wilding told the judge that he found his wife packing a suitcase to leave him. A struggle started and a gun was produced. During the struggle the gun went off, killing her.
Wilding did not call police or an ambulance, instead opting to keep his wife's body in the bathroom of their east Montgomery home for a day before buring her remains. He then disposed of the ashes in different locations around Lake Martin.
Prosecutors had originally charged Albert Wilding with Capital Murder, but the case against him hinged on circumstantial evidence because Mrs. Wilding's body was never found. Though the plea deal was not what prosecutors initially wanted, they said they were satisfied with the outcome. Judie Wilding's brother, Ken Richards, also agreed.
WSFA 12 News left messages with Wilding's attorney, but a response has not been provided.
As part of the plea deal Wilding will spend two and a half more years in prison before being placed on a five year probation. As part of the probation, Wilding cannot have contact with anyone connected to the case including witnesses and residents in Arrowhead Subdivision where the couple shared a home.
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