BOONEVILLE - A Prentiss County man will spend the rest of his life behind bars after pleading guilty to the 2017 brutal death of his estranged wife.

Mike Brian Rutledge, 25, pleaded guilty to capital murder in Prentiss County Circuit Court Tuesday in the kidnapping and beating death of Laura Ann Rutledge, 35. Her body was discovered July 27, 2017 in a wooded area just off North College Street in Booneville.

Following the plea, Circuit Court Judge John White sentenced Rutledge to life without the possibility of parole or release. Rutledge has been in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on a separate burglary charge since shortly after his wife's death.

Laura Rutledge was found not far from her apartment several days after she was killed. The District Attorney's Office said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds to the head and upper body. Booneville detectives recovered a knife with a blade approximately 10 inches long. MIke Rutledge identified the knife for detectives as the murder weapon.

According to testimony, during his interrogation by police, Rutledge confessed to the crime saying "(I) grabbed her hands and tied them behind her back and then started stabbing her and then beat her in the head with a stick. After I killed her, I covered her up with a sheet and drug her off in the bushes in an attempt to cover up her body hoping no one would find her.”

Since Laura Rutledge's hands were tied behind her back, he was charged with kidnapping as the underlying felony in the capital murder charge. By pleading guilty, Mike Rutledge avoided the possibility of the death penalty. The victim's family was part of the plea agreement and approved of the life without parole sentence.

At the time of the crime, the couple was married but separated. When she disappeared, family members alerted law enforcement who began a massive search to find her before a storm arrived that could possibly wash away evidence. When he confessed, Rutledge told officials where to find her body.

Less than two weeks after he was arrested and charged with capital murder, then Circuit Court Judge Jim Pounds revoked Rutledge's probation on a prior residential burglary charge and ordered him to serve the 14 years that were originally suspended. He has remained in custody ever since.


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