Northwest Florida Daily News reports…
“Human remains were retrieved Friday from the back yard of an Ocean City home formerly owned by pastor James Flanders.
Bones believed to be those of 37-year-old Marie Carlson were just where Flanders had told authorities the day before that they would find them.
He took investigators to 714 Revere Avenue Thursday to show them where he’d buried Carlson after literally squeezing the life out of her.
Officers from four agencies spent hours carefully removing the remains to allow for their shipment to Pensacola, where the Medical Examiner’s Office will positively identify them, said Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mike Card.
The identification will conclude a search for the 37-year-old Carlson that began on Oct. 17, 2011 when her ex-husband, Jeff Carlson, reported her missing.
It will also clear the way for Flanders, once the popular pastor of Calvary Emerald Coast Church, to secure a plea deal that ensures he will serve no more than 15 years in prison for killing Carlson.
Jeff Carlson said Friday there is great relief in finally recovering his ex-wife’s body, but no joy in seeing Flanders use its recovery to finagle a deal with the State Attorney’s Office.
“I want people to understand that yes, as a family we all agreed to presenting the deal as an option, but that doesn’t mean we’re happy with it,” Jeff Carlson said. “That was the only way we were going to find out what he did with her remains.
“That he will only serve 15 years is a travesty.”
The deal was finalized in Okaloosa County Circuit Court Thursday when Judge William Stone accepted Flanders plea of guilty to the charge of manslaughter and agreed to cap the sentence at a maximum of 15 years.
Flanders could also be sentenced to a minimum guideline sentence of just over nine years and has asked the judge for the opportunity to argue for a downward departure even from that.
A sentencing hearing will be held July 19. State Attorney Bill Eddins has already said he will seek to have the 15 year maximum imposed.
The plea deal was brokered over several days of negotiations, Eddins said.
Flanders confessed to prosecutors during the discussions that he had killed Carlson during an argument by placing her in “a tight bear hug” and hanging on until she stopped moving.
Afterward he buried her in the back yard on the west side of the home.
Carlson was living with Flanders and his wife, Tanya, at the Revere Avenue address at the time of her death.
She was in what Tanya Flanders described to a church friend a “sister wife” relationship, with the Flanders, a police report said, and bore a child, Grace, shortly before she died.
Jeff Carlson said Grace is presently under the care of Tanya Flanders and Carlson family members have exhausted almost all efforts to wrest custody away.
Tanya Flanders is unhappy that the family is even allowed court-ordered video visits with Grace.
“She feels that they shouldn’t be allowed even that,” Carlson said.
Tanya Flanders is not considered an accomplice in the disappearance or death of Marie Carlson, Eddins said.
Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office, Medical Examiner’s Office, FDLE and State Attorney’s Office were all represented Friday at the Revere Avenue residence. Card, who acted as spokesman for the group, said each agency was playing a particular role in the excavation.
Remains were found fairly quickly into the search, Card said, but once they were located the pace of the digging slowed dramatically.
“We’re literally using tongue depressors and toothbrushes,” Card said at about 10 a.m. “It’s a very slow, meticulous process.”
A forensic anthropologist was brought on scene to assist in removing the remains, Card said. He said such care was taken to preserve the evidentiary value of any items found.
The commotion at the residence, complete with a cop directing traffic, crime scene tape and an FDLE van, disrupted the calm of the quiet residential neighborhood. Passersby stopped to ask assembled media what was going on.
Polly Yates, who has lived on Revere Avenue for 34 years, was distressed by the whole scene.
“I’ll be glad when it’s all over,” she said. “It’s beyond me how this can happen.”
Jeff Carlson, who now lives in Colorado, still holds fond memories of his ex-wife, whose passing can now be memorialized in proper fashion.
“I never stopped loving her,” he said. “She wanted to go her own way, and I had to respect that.”
The couple had a daughter of their own, Paris, who is about to turn 12. She’s old enough now, Jeff said, to begin to understand the horrors her mother endured.
“I’ll have to deal with the after effects,” he said.”