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Gautier man sentenced to life after dead woman found tied to tree

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man has pleaded guilty to murder, a year and a half after some church members found the burned and decomposed body of his live-in girlfriend.

News outlets report 57-year-old James Vanlaningham of Gautier entered the guilty plea Tuesday in Jackson County and was sentenced to life in prison.

Amanda Hicks was killed Feb. 8, 2017. According to court testimony, Vanlaningham said he and Hicks were arguing over money after drinking at a casino. He said he tied 37-year-old Hicks to a tree behind Pine Grove United Methodist Church and left her there.

Her body was found more than a month later, and dental records had to be used to identify her. A cause of death could not be determined.

The couple’s child is in foster care.