By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - An elderly Missouri woman accused of killing her husband four decades ago and burying his body in an abandoned Wyoming gold mine was found guilty on Thursday of second-degree murder, a court official said.
Alice Uden, 75, of Chadwick, Missouri, faces 20 years in prison for the shooting death in Wyoming in 1974 or 1975 of Ronald Holtz, her husband of several months.
Prosecutors, who had charged Uden with first-degree murder, claimed she shot Holtz in the back of the head with a rifle while he slept.
Defense attorneys argued that Uden shot and killed Holtz after he flew into a rage and threatened to harm her toddler daughter, court documents show.
Allegations about Holtz's death came to light during a separate probe by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Cold Case Team into the 1980 disappearance of Virginia Uden and her two young sons, according to court records. Virginia Uden was the ex-wife of Gerald Uden, Alice Uden's current husband.
A witness in that probe said Alice Uden had confessed to shooting Holtz, stuffing his body in a barrel and burying it in an abandoned mine on Wyoming ranchlands, court documents said.
Alice Uden divorced Holtz in 1975 in a default judgment after he could not be found to be served with legal papers.
Last August, Wyoming authorities recovered Holtz' remains in the derelict mine and found that he had died from a gunshot to the back of the head.
Gerald and Alice Uden both were arrested in September in Missouri and later sent to Wyoming to face murder charges in the separate cases.
Gerald Uden was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the 1980 shooting deaths in Wyoming of his former wife and her sons, according to legal records.
Jurors in the trial of Alice Uden deliberated for two days before rejecting a first-degree murder charge, which alleges premeditation, and convicting her on the lesser charge of second-degree murder, said Sean Larson, law clerk for Wyoming District Judge Steven K. Sharpe, who presided over the trial in Cheyenne.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Paul Tait)