ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A former Air Force airman has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing his friend with a hammer.
Prosecutors say former Airman First Class James Thomas agreed to plead guilty Friday to one count of second-degree extreme indifference murder and two counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Prosecutors said the 26-year-old struck Senior Airman Clinton Reeves multiple times with a hammer, then disposed of his body in a ravine, Anchorage television station KTVA reported.
Reeves was initially reported missing April 23, 2012, launching a large search effort by U.S. Air Force officials and Reeves' family in Kansas and California.
His body was found about two weeks later by three women walking along Skyline Drive in Eagle River, according to Anchorage police.
The parties agreed to a 55-year sentence, including 23 years suspended. That means Thomas will serve 32 years, including time already served.
Reeves' mother, Judy Davis, listened over the phone as her son's killer admitted guilt. Thomas has agreed to pay an undetermined amount of restitution to Davis, The Alaska Dispatch News newspaper reported.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations worked alongside the Anchorage Police Department, whose investigation led to Thomas' arrest the same day Reeves' body was found.
He was originally charged with six counts of tampering with physical evidence and labeled as a person of interest in Reeves' death. A hammer with Reeves' blood on it was later found in Thomas' truck.
Reeves had gotten a $4,000 insurance company check for a wreck that totaled his vehicle, his parents told the Anchorage Daily News in 2012. He was shopping for a new car the weekend he went missing, they said.
Thomas was indicted in June 2012 by a grand jury on 11 charges, including one count of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree robbery, as well as evidence tampering.
Sentencing is set for July 24.