A body believed to be that of a missing Florida woman was found in the septic tank of her home, and her handyman was charged with murder, officials announced over the weekend. 

Cynthia Cole, 57, was last seen Feb. 24 at the Jammin’ Jensen event in downtown Jensen Beach, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

A body believed to be hers was found inside the septic tank of her Jensen Beach home late Friday evening into Saturday morning by Martin County sheriff’s detectives, the agency said in a news release. 

Authorities excavated Cole’s backyard for hours and found the body “submerged in the contents of the tank about four feet underground,” according to the release. 

Keoki Hilo Demich, 34, a handyman who worked for Cole, was located by detectives shortly afterward and arrested on a charge of second-degree murder. 

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told NBC News affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach that investigators found Cole’s car on Friday within walking distance from Demich’s home. Further, surveillance footage showed him walking away from Cole’s car the night she vanished. 

When detectives looked at Cole’s home over the weekend, one of them “happened to look down and noticed the cover to the septic tank … didn’t look right,” prompting the search into the tank, the sheriff said.

A motive is not immediately clear in the case. 

“I’ve been doing this 40-plus years. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Snyder said.

Positive identification of the body by the medical examiner’s office is “expected shortly” but authorities “have every reason to believe it is that of Ms. Cole.” Elements of the case remain under investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

Demich remains in custody, with his first court appearance slated for Monday, the sheriff’s office told NBC News. The autopsy is also scheduled for Monday.

Online records for the case and lawyer information for Demich were not immediately available.

Marlene Lenthang

Marlene Lenthang is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.


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