A man convicted in Montgomery County of killing his wife 2 1/2 years before her body was found said in a letter attributed to him that he committed the crime in desperation.

William F. Hurley, 38, in a letter written to Frederick (Md.) Post reporter Ruth W. Ellis, said he wanted to cast off the web of lies he had told to prevent detection.

"It's a story about a man who, pushed to an intolerable limit, suddenly, in a heat of desperation, killed his wife," Hurley wrote from the Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown, Md., where he is serving a 10-year sentence for a manslaughter conviction.

Ellis said she verified through the prison system that the letter was written by Hurley.

Hurley was charged in the death of Catherine Hurley, 35, in August 1983. Prosecutors brought the case to trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court even though the body was not found, and the couple's 5-year-old daughter testified that she saw a woman lying on the floor while peeking through the window of her father's office. A jury acquitted Hurley of first-degree murder, but convicted him of manslaughter.

Last month, Hurley's girlfriend, Amy L. Snively of Olney, led police to the shallow grave at Brink Road and Rte. 27 near Butler's Orchard where Catherine Hurley's body was hidden.

Hurley, in excerpts from the letter published in the Frederick newspaper, denied there was any plot to kill his wife.