HUMBLE, Texas — A man whose estranged and pregnant wife vanished the day after Christmas has been arrested and charged with killing her.
Matt Sowders, 28, was taken into custody Thursday outside his parents' house here and charged with capital murder after volunteers searching for Melissa Sowders, 26, found a body in Cypress Creek that morning. The charge means that Matt Sowders could face the death penalty if convicted.
U.S. marshals, Harris County Sheriff's deputies and Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force members were waiting with guns drawn when Sowders walked out of the house, about 20 miles northeast of Houston, with his father.
"We were going to the bond place because we heard the warrant's been issued," Sowder's father said. "We were trying to comply."
An autopsy will be performed, but investigators and family members believe the body is Melissa Sowder.
Melissa and Matt Sowders have four children, according to The Houston Chronicle. But she and her husband of nine years filed for divorce in the fall. Her boyfriend, Jason Sanford, was the father of the child she was carrying.
Melissa Sowders vanished Dec. 26 after dropping Sanford off at work at 6:15 a.m. CT.
Matt Sowders had custody of their four children, and Melissa Sowders was supposed to meet her estranged husband and their youngest daughter at a Houston-area McDonald's that day, Sanford said.
"She told me, 'OK, I'm here. He's here, I'm going to get off the phone,' " Sanford said. "Every time she had to meet with him to see her baby, she was always worried about it. He scares her."
Deputies found Melissa Sowders' white Honda Accord on Friday night less than 4 miles away Interstate 45. Volunteers on horses had been searching along Cypress Creek in northwest Houston since Saturday.
Sanford said investigators called him shortly after the body was found.
"The detective called me asking what kind of tattoos were on her, and so I explained a couple of the tattoos that I could remember, stars that were on her side and a tattoo of Matt's name on her waistline," Sanford said.
Melissa Sowders was two months pregnant with Sanford's baby. Matt Sowders was arrested on a charge of capital murder because of his estranged wife's pregnancy, meaning two lives were ended, Harris County District Attorney's Office officials toldThe Houston Chronicle.
"It's been a long week," Sanford said. "And now a little hope, a little relief. ... It's hard."
Her relatives rushed to the scene after hearing a body had been found.
Amber Newsom, Melissa Sowder's younger sister, said she will cherish memories of the last time she saw the young mother and her children at a local park.
Dustan Neyland, a lawyer that Matt Sowder hired Sunday, said he was shocked that his client was arrested. Matt Sowders is being held without bail and will make his first court appearance Monday.
"It's kind of more of a shock that he was arrested today so quickly after a body was found without any kind of an autopsy or a cause of death being determined," Neyland said.