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Missing woman's husband charged with murder

By T.A. BADGER

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Associated Press Writer

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The husband of a woman whose charred remains were found outside San Antonio this week was charged with murder Friday.

Prosecutors said that it was unlikely that the charge against Richard McFarland would be upgraded to capital murder despite the gruesomeness of Susan McFarland's death.

"This was in fact a murder," said Michael Bernard, Bexar County's top assistant prosecutor. "We don't have the evidence to indicate that it was a capital murder."

McFarland, 45, of suburban Terrell Hills was arraigned late Friday afternoon at the Bexar County Jail. His bond for the murder count was set at $500,000.

He was already in custody in lieu of a $450,000 bond on a variety of lesser charges linked to his wife's disappearance in late November.

Shackled and clad in a standard-issue orange jumpsuit, a haggard and unshaven McFarland was led into a courtroom at the jail for the five-minute appearance before District Judge Sid Harle. He said little during the proceeding.

Ann Smith Carr, Susan McFarland's sister, was among those in attendance at the hearing. She said she was there to look her brother-in-law in the face, and that his blank expression left her feeling angry.

"I'd like to see someone who was distraught," said Carr, who lives near St. Louis, Mo. "His wife is dead. His children are in a shelter."

Susan McFarland's burned body was found at an abandoned farm in southeast Bexar County shortly before her husband's arrest. An autopsy performed Thursday by the county's medical examiner determined she died of blunt trauma to the head and ruled her death a homicide.

"Domestic violence is a crime with the most disastrous of consequences," said Susan Reed, Bexar County's district attorney, in a written statement. "This case represents the cruelest of action and the most tragic of results."

The 43-year-old mother of three young sons supported the family as an accounting manager at SBC Communications Inc. Her husband, formerly a salesman, was unemployed.

The McFarland boys -- ages 11, 9 and 5 -- were in the care of the state Child Protective Services office as of Friday.

Carr said that the boys know their mother is dead, but that they didn't know the circumstances or the murder charges against their father. She said they were being shielded from news reports about the case.

Law-enforcement officials would not talk about specific proof against McFarland, including any suspected murder weapon. Bernard said there was no single key piece of evidence, but rather that investigators were "putting the case together piece by piece."

Richard McFarland, the only suspect to emerge in the case, was arrested Tuesday on charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and two counts of attempting to obstruct the probe into his wife's disappearance.

Susan McFarland had last been seen Nov. 25. Her Ford Explorer was found near her home in upscale Terrell Hills three days later.

Her friends told Texas Rangers that she was planning to start divorce proceedings in early December. A folder with divorce-related paperwork was found in her office at SBC, Ranger Shawn Palmer said in an affidavit last month.

Searches of the family's home turned up apparent blood stains and droplets, according to the affidavit. McFarland, said to be uncooperative with investigators, was also observed to have cuts on his hands.

The pending charges against McFarland stem from the theft of a Chevrolet Suburban for sale at a Terrell Hills gas station. The vehicle was found across the street from the McFarland house, parked in the garage of an unoccupied home.

A wallet with items bearing Richard McFarland's name was found in the Suburban, Palmer's affidavit stated, and an apparent blood smear was seen on the vehicle's rear bumper.

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