Murder of Pregnant Woman Could Bring Death Penalty

PHOTO: Matthew O. Sowders, the suspect in the disappearance and murder of Melissa Sowders, is seen in this Harris County Sheriff booking photo.
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A Texas man was charged today with murdering his estranged wife and her unborn child, a capital murder charge that carries the death penalty.

Detectives arrested Matthew Sowders, 28, of Harris County Thursday night, hours after a diving team recovered the body of his estranged wife Melissa Sowders, 26, from Cypress Creek, which is behind Sowder's home.

Melissa Sowders had been missing since Dec. 26 when she was last seen with her husband at a McDonald's restaurant.

"You're here on a charge of capital murder, and I believe it involves the murder of two people, including an unborn child," a court official stated when Sowders appeared at a probable cause hearing today.

According to court documents, a witness told investigators she went to Sowders' apartment the day Melissa Sowders disappeared, and when he opened the door, the witness saw what appeared to be a woman's feet and lower legs lying on the floor of the apartment. She said Sowders shut the door before she saw anything else, the document states.

Sowders is being held without bond in the Harris County jail. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Sowders has yet to enter a plea, but his attorney Dustan Neyland denied his client had anything to do with the murder.

"He is maintaining his innocence. It was a shock to be charged and arrested without a cause of death determination. He is not guilty of this charge," Neyland said.

Melissa Sowders had three children with her estranged husband, who are in the custody of Matthew Sowders' parents, according to Melissa's cousin Michelle Bierman. At the time of her death, she was pregnant with the child of boyfriend Jason Sanford, Bierman told ABC News.

According to court records, the Sowders filed for divorce in October.

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