TULARE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A Visalia man was sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife, officials with Tulare’s District Attorney Office announced on Tuesday.

Court documents say on Sept. 25, 2006, 45-year-old Joseph Allen Hughes was released from custody for theft-related offenses. On Oct. 6, Hughes contacted Visalia police to say his wife ran away but he did not want to make a report.

A few days after, DA officials say a family member made a missing person report to authorities, and on Nov. 25, 2006, Hughes’ wife, the victim, was found in a shallow grave on the bank of Mill Creek near Akers St. in Visalia.

Tulare’s DA office says the cause of death was strangulation.

For more than ten years, Hughes maintained his wife had left the family. Detectives continued the investigation but were unable to arrest the individual for the crime, court documents say.

According to the DA, in Feb. 2016, a family member with intimate knowledge of what happened in 2006 contacted detectives with Visalia police, and in a statement, the family said they saw and hear Hughes beating the victim the night she supposedly left.

They never saw her again and Hughes continued to state that the victim ran away, court documents say.

After further investigation, authorities say Hughes was arrested and charged with his wife’s homicide in Oct. 2017. At the time of his arrest, he was incarcerated in prison for robbery and felony vandalism.

Prosecutors say on Nov. 18, 2022, Hughes was found guilty of second-degree murder by a judge in a court trial.

According to current California sentencing laws, Hughes must serve 15 years before being considered for parole.