COVINGTON, La. (AP) -- A body found in the East Pearl River has been identified as a Slidell man accused in 2008 of trying to hire someone to kill his estranged wife.

The St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office identified him Friday as Danny Willingham, 60, and an autopsy showed that he drowned, executive director Melanie Comeaux told The Times-Picayune (

Sgt. Sean Beavers of the parish sheriff's office said the body had no obvious signs of trauma and deputies are trying to determine how he ended up in the water.

Willingham was booked with soliciting for murder but pleaded guilty in 2009 to intimidating a witness -- his wife -- to keep her from testifying in a divorce hearing about community property. He was sentenced to five years on probation.

Prosecutors accepted the plea after the person he allegedly tried to hire three times for $10,000 refused to testify.

Records show that Williams and his former wife ran the Blue Dog Bait and Tackle Shop, a Slidell-area business that closed in June 2009.

Beavers said a friend of Willingham's called the sheriff's office to Willingham's home about 11 p.m. Wednesday, saying he had gone to check on him because he hadn't seen him since March 21.

The friend said the house was unlocked but nothing inside was missing or disturbed, according to Beavers.

Deputies discovered Willingham's corpse while searching for him Thursday morning.

Comeaux said the coroner was awaiting the results of a routine toxicology test.


Information from: The Times-Picayune,

AP-WF-03-31-12 1530GMT

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