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Michigan Man gets Xbox in prison after leading police to wife's body

"He really showed no emotion — he was pretty matter-of-fact," said St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. "He walked the detectives right to where it was and there it was."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Douglas Stewart would be able to attend his parents' funerals some time in the future on condition of good behavior. That request was denied by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

A man convicted of murdering his wife eight years ago has finally shown investigators where he buried her body — in exchange for access to an Xbox gaming console and other privileges in prison.

Douglas Stewart led a team of police and medical examiners to the wooded burial site in Wakeshma Township in Kalamazoo County on Monday. He was convicted in 2011 of killing his estranged wife, Venus Stewart, but her remains were never found.

"He really showed no emotion — he was pretty matter-of-fact," said St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. "He walked the detectives right to where it was and there it was."

The remains were buried in a 5-foot-deep hole. Its size helped to confirm the previous knowledge that the murder was premeditated, said Detective Sergeant Todd Petersen. Investigators also uncovered a blue tarp that acted as a key piece of evidence during the case.

In this Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, photo, detectives investigate the scene where remains believed to be those of a southwestern Michigan woman who disappeared in 2010 were found, in Fulton, Mich. Doug Stewart, who was convicted of killing his estranged wife in 2011, took police to the burial site Monday. (Photo: Daniel Vasta, Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)

Stewart buried the remains in a tree-lined area that he used to visit with his father as a teenager, about 15 minutes from the alleged site of the murder at Venus' parents house. Police had searched dozens of areas nearby but never the specific place that he led them yesterday.

McDonough said the remains were positively identified as those of Venus Stewart after dental tests were performed by medical anthropologists at Western Michigan University.

In exchange for the recovered remains, Stewart's specialized housing unit in Saginaw Correctional Facility will receive access to an Xbox in their free time.

Stewart also asked for the privilege of release under supervision for his parents' funerals at some point in the future, but that request was denied by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The Xbox will be a "special" model that does not allow an internet connection, McDonough said.

But the privileges are contingent on continuing good behavior, and nothing has been written in a contract.

In this Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, photo, detectives work at the scene where remains believed to be those of a southwestern Michigan woman who disappeared in 2010 were found, in Fulton, Mich. Doug Stewart, who was convicted of killing his estranged wife in 2011, took police to the burial site Monday. (Photo: Daniel Vasta, Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)

"The minute Doug Stewart doesn’t do what he’s supposed to as a prisoner ... those things can be taken away by the prison instantly," Petersen said.

About a year ago, Petersen put Doug Stewart's sister in touch with Venus' mother. The families became reconnected and began talking for the first time in years. That pressure convinced Stewart to cave to investigators' continued effort to find Venus' body.

Also around that time, Stewart admitted to murdering Venus.

Recovering the body took a day. It was an emotional process for the team who had spent years working on the case, McDonough said.

"It was just really good after all that time to finally find her for the family," Petersen added.

Contact Fiona Kelliher at fkelliher@freepress.com or follower her Twitter @fiona_kelliher.

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