- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A southeastern Missouri man serving a 20-year sentence for killing his estranged wife and burying her body on a Mississippi River island now faces a related federal charge that could keep him behind bars for life.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said Monday that Clay Waller, 45, has been indicted on a count of interstate domestic violence. The indictment alleges that Waller traveled between Illinois and Missouri in June 2011 with the intent to kill his estranged wife, Jacque Waller.

In a news release, Callahan said it is unusual for his office to pursue federal prosecution in a case already adjudicated in state court, but “the facts and circumstances of this case begged for such a prosecution.”

Waller’s attorney in the state’s case against him, Christopher Davis, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. Online court records didn’t list an attorney for Waller in the federal case, and a court spokeswoman said she didn’t know of one.

Jacque Waller, a 39-year-old mother of triplets, went missing on June 1, 2011, setting off a frantic search. Her Honda Pilot was found with tires slashed along Interstate 55.

Investigators immediately suspected Clay Waller. The two had spent the day of her disappearance meeting with a divorce lawyer.

Clay Waller was arrested a year later and charged with first-degree murder, even though a body had not been found. Meanwhile, he was convicted of a federal charge for online threats against Jacque Waller’s sister, Cheryl Brenneke, and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

While in custody, Clay Waller reached a deal with prosecutors: He’d take authorities to the body and plead guilty, but to second-degree murder, thus avoiding any risk of the death penalty. Prosecutors, believing it unlikely that the body would otherwise be found, reluctantly agreed.

Waller led police to a shallow grave on a Mississippi River island near Alexander County, Illinois, where his wife’s remains were buried. He pleaded guilty in June 2013 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He must serve at least 17 years.

At his sentencing, Waller said he lost his temper during an argument. But prosecutors said Waller was motivated in part by jealousy. Before her death, Jacque Waller was planning to move in with a new boyfriend.

The new indictment alleges that the FBI obtained a manuscript Clay Waller was writing entitled “If You Take My Kids, I’ll Kill You!” The indictment seeks forfeiture of any future proceeds that might be derived from the manuscript.

Brenneke has custody of the triplets, who just finished fourth grade.

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