A crucial piece of evidence -- the body of the victim -- was finally discovered yesterday in the case of a Rockville man who was convicted more than two years ago of killing his estranged wife even though police could find no trace of the body, no blood and no weapon.
Montgomery County prosecutors said the body of Catherine Patricia Hurley, 34, who disappeared in August 1983 after going to her husband's carpet cleaning business office to collect money he owed her, was discovered buried in a remote area off Brink Road near Damascus.
The husband, William Francis Hurley, 38, was convicted of manslaughter four months following the disappearance, after their 5-year-old daughter testified at his trial that she had seen through the window of her father's office the legs of a woman, apparently lying on the floor. Hurley is serving a 10-year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup.
Hurley's former girlfriend, Amy Snively, 30, led investigators to the grave, the county prosecutor's office reported. Snively, who lives at 17113 Thorntondale Ct., Olney, was charged last night with two counts each of perjury and being an accessory after the fact of murder, said Suzanne Schneider, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.
Sources close to the case said Snively's disclosure of the grave site apparently was related to a recently renewed grand jury investigation.
Through a plea bargain agreement made yesterday, prosecutors said, Snively would be sentenced to no more than 18 months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Maximum penalty upon conviction of all four charges would have been 30 years in prison.
Snively, an office manager for a Silver Spring printing business, had testified at Hurley's trial in Montgomery Circuit Court that she had been living with him and was with him on the night when prosecutors claimed he killed his wife. Snively testified that she believed that Catherine Hurley had left town and abandoned her children, Katie, 5, Daniel, 8, and Jack, 12.
The defense called a Rockville psychiatrist who testified that Catherine Hurley's diaries suggested that she might have run away or might have committed suicide.
The state's star witness, Katie Hurley, seemed unaware of the import of her testimony. Clutching a chartreuse teddy bear and smiling across the courtroom at her father, she testified that had she had heard a scream while waiting in her mother's car outside her father's office.
When she went to a window to peer in, she said, she saw the legs and feet of a woman wearing what appeared to be her mother's shoes. Her father later came out of the office, she continued, told her that her mother was on the telephone and drove her to his house in Rockville.
Katie and her two brothers now live with their maternal grandparents in Rockville.
William Hurley was originally charged with second-degree murder -- killing with malice but without premeditation -- but he was convicted of manslaughter, which involves neither of those elements. Schneider said that he could not be tried on another murder charge as the result of evidence found yesterday because of the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.
Snively had told a friend that William Hurley had dug up his wife's skull, had smashed out the teeth to prevent identification through dental records, and had thrown the skull into a river, according to court documents.
In the months after Catherine Hurley was secretly buried, according to documents filed in court to support one of the accessory charges, Snively patrolled the grave site to make sure animals did not dig up any bones. On one occasion, according to the documents, Snively found a long bone that she thought was an arm or a leg and threw it in a dumpster.
The case of Catherine Hurley's slaying "was never closed, not without a body," said Schneider. "At least now her family will be able to give her a decent burial."