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Man accused of murdering woman found in septic tank could face death penalty

A grand jury indicted Keoki Hilo Demich, 34, for first-degree murder on May 17.

JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — A handyman charged with the murder of a Florida woman whose body was found inside her home's septic tank in March could face the death penalty.

Court documents show state prosecutors declared their intent to seek the death penalty for 34-year-old Keoki Demich on May 18, one day after a grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder. Demich is also charged with burglary with assault, sexual battery with great force, third-degree grand theft and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Detectives say on March 4, they found what they believed to be the body of 57-year-old Cynthia Cole in the septic tank of her Jensen Beach home. Cole had previously been reported missing on March 1 after her friends said they hadn't heard from her for several days, which was unusual.

The sheriff's office said detectives spent hours excavating Cole's backyard and eventually found the body about 4 feet underground.

Credit: Martin County Sheriff's Office

According to an arrest affidavit, a message was sent from Cole's phone to Demich just after 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 25 saying, "Hey key, sent you some money to finish the house off I’ll call you Saturday morning when I’m on my way.” The sheriff's office said Demich was Cole's handyman and longtime friend.

Detectives say they also found a record from the Lyft ride-sharing app showing that Demich took a ride to Cole's home just after 5 p.m. on Feb. 24, the day of Cole's last known contact with friends. A $567.75 Cash App transfer from Cole to Demich from around 3:45 a.m. on Feb. 25 was also reportedly discovered.

According to the sheriff's office, "Keoki Demich made various statements about his activities the night and morning that the victim disappeared that were determined to be false."

Demich was arrested just before 2 a.m. on March 5 and initially charged with second-degree murder.

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