Monday, February 19, 2018
Public safety

Seffner man wanted for killing wife caught in South Carolina

TAMPA — A Seffner man accused of killing his wife and burning her body in September was arrested Thursday at a relative's home in South Carolina and will be brought back to Tampa to face a murder charge, authorities said.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Belcher, 43, of 3913 Pine St., last week after spending a month investigating the death of his wife, Gwendolyn Belcher, also 43.

Skeletal remains were found in her burned Nissan on Sept. 16 at 7021 Taylor Road in Thonotosassa. The next day, deputies arrested her husband on a battery domestic violence charge, and his bail was set at $1 million.

As he sat in the Hillsborough County Jail, the Medical Examiner's Office positively identified the skeleton remains as Gwen Belcher, using dental records.

But friends and family members were outraged when Christopher Belcher was released from jail Oct. 2 as prosecutors decided not to pursue the battery case.

Gwen Belcher's daughter had already told deputies she hadn't heard from her mother since 3:55 p.m. Sept. 15, according to an arrest affidavit.

And Christopher Belcher's daughter told deputies that at 9 p.m. Sept. 15, she saw her father slap his wife as she lay on the couch and accuse her of cheating, the report said.

The girl was sent to her room, but said she still heard banging noises, what sounded like her father's wife being strangled, and Gwen Belcher yell, "Chris stop!"

After the yelling and fighting stopped, the arrest report said, Christopher Belcher told his daughter to go to sleep. She later told deputies she did not see Gwendolyn Belcher again.

Belcher had told deputies his wife left after the fight on Sept. 15. But a neighbor's home surveillance video shows that no vehicle left the residence between when Christopher Belcher's truck pulled in the night before and when a Nissan left the next morning, the report shows.

The surveillance camera captured a black, four-door Nissan leaving the house at 6:38 a.m. Sept. 16, deputies said. At 8 a.m., Christopher Belcher was seen on the video mowing his lawn.

In a search of the Pine Street house, homicide detectives discovered blood spatters on carpeting and sent the samples to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing. On Oct. 25, the lab confirmed the blood belonged to Gwen Belcher, the report said.

U.S. marshals tracked Christopher Belcher to his sister's home in South Carolina and caught him with help of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office and Greenville Police Department. It's unclear when he will be transported back to Florida.

FDLE records show he had been arrested in 2003, 2005 and 2006 on eight different misdemeanor or felony charges, including battery on a spouse and violating a domestic violence injunction. In nearly all cases, the records show, the charges were reduced or dropped, or a judge withheld adjudication.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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