(WSPA) – A Rock Hill man pleaded guilty in federal court to shooting his wife, burning her body and burying her in a makeshift grave in Kentucky.
According to the United States District Attorney’s Office in South Carolina, Lawrence Joseph Florentine, 56, of Rock Hill, pleaded guilty in federal court to interstate domestic violence resulting in death, use of a firearm during a crime of violence to cause death, obstruction of justice, and use of fire during the commission of a felony.
FBI Investigators said Florentine is responsible for the death of his wife, Nicole Zahnd Florentine.
Beginning in December 2019, law enforcement in York County, where the couple resided, responded to multiple calls made by Nicole for emergency assistance. She reported Florentine physically abused her and threatened to kill her, burn her, and bury her.
According to the FBI the couple were travelling by car in early June 2020 and were last known to be together in Piedmont. Before the trip, Nicole had been in regular contact with her grandmother. When communication between the two stopped, her grandmother filed a missing person report.
On June 13, 2020 a groundskeeper for a cemetery in Fredonia, Kentucky discovered a makeshift grave and called police.
Officers with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Kentucky State Police responded and recovered a partially charred female body from the shallow grave. A gas can was recovered from behind a tree near the burial site. No identification, cell phone, or other personal belongings were found.
An autopsy identified the body as that of Nicole, that the manner of death was homicide, and the cause of death was a .22 caliber bullet wound to the head.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a car matching Florentine’s car around the cemetery before the body was discovered. A hardware store clerk identified sales for a shovel and a gas can identical to the ones can found at the cemetery by a customer who matched Florentine’s description. Surveillance camera footage from a nearby gas station shows Florentine filling the gas can a short time later.
Florentine faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000, restitution, and eight years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment. He will be sentenced at a later date.