Estranged husband charged with wife's murder makes first court appearance

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by Andrew Horansky / KHOU 11 News & KHOU.com staff

kvue.com

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 10:09 AM

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The estranged husband of 26-year-old Melissa Sowders was arrested Thursday evening in Humble.

Matt Sowders, 28, is charged with capital murder of his pregnant wife who vanished the day after Christmas. He was transferred to Harris County Jail Thursday night.

U.S. Marshals, Harris County Sheriff's deputies and members of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force took Sowders into custody outside his parents' home.

They were waiting with guns drawn when Sowders walked out of the house with his father.

"Get on the ground," marshals yelled and Sowders' father immediately complied.

"We were going to the bond place because we heard the warrant's been issued," Sowders' father said. "We were trying to comply."

Eqqusearch volunteers found a body in Cypress Creek Thursday morning where they have been searching for Melissa Sowders.

An autopsy will be performed, but investigators and family members are convinced it is her.

Her boyfriend, Jason Sanford, said investigators called him shortly after the body was found.

"The detective called me asking what kind of tattoos were on her and so I explained a couple of the tattoos that I could remember, stars that were on her side and a tattoo of Matt's name on her waistline," Sanford said.

Sowders vanished last Thursday after dropping Sanford off at work at 6:15 a.m.

Sanford said Sowders was supposed to go meet her ex-husband and their youngest daughter at the McDonald’s on FM 1960 near Kuykendahl Road.

"She told me, 'Okay, I'm here. He's here, I’m going to get off the phone.' Every time she had to meet with him to see her baby, she was always worried about it. He scares her," said Sanford said.

Deputies found Sowders' white Honda Accord Friday night on Interstate 45 near Richey Road.

Texas Equusearch had been searching the area along Cypress Creek since Saturday.

"It's been a long week," Sanford said. "And now a little hope, a little relief... it's hard."

Sowders was two months pregnant with Sanford's baby.

Her relatives rushed to the scene after hearing a body had been found.

"I just appreciate everything that Eqqusearch has done," said Amber Newsom, Melissa's younger sister.  She said she will cherish memories of the last time she saw Melissa and her children at a local park.

Dustan Neyland, Sowders' lawyer, said it was a shock that his client was arrested.

"It's kind of more of a shock that he was arrested today so quickly after a body was found without any kind of an autopsy or a cause of death being determined," Neyland said.

If you have any information about the case, contact the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit at (713) 967-5810 or Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS.

If anyone would like to donate to the family's funeral cost:

Amegy Bank

1000 Spring Cypress

In care of Melissa Sowders

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