Thomas Small
Coles County Sheriff's Office
Chris Harris
March 07, 2017 05:13 PM

A 70-year-old Illinois man has been charged with the 1980 murder of his then-wife, PEOPLE confirms.

Thomas Small has long been considered a suspect in the slaying of Diane Small — who was 26 and shared a 2-year-old daughter with Thomas when she vanished, according to investigators in Coles County, Illinois.

Diane’s badly decomposed body was discovered by a bridge in October 1980, just four days after she was reported missing, Coles County police said in a statement. But it would be another 12 years before her remains were identified by DNA testing, and her head, hands and feet had reportedly been amputated.

On Thursday, more than 37 years after Diane’s death, Thomas was charged with her murder. Authorities believe Thomas killed Diane and dismembered her body before disposing of her remains, according to the police statement.

Diane’s head was never recovered.

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Soon after she disappeared, Thomas claimed to investigators that his wife had actually left him, police said. He has been charged with one murder count and is being held on $2 million bail, court records confirm.

It was not immediately clear what new evidence may have led to Thomas’ arrest.

“The good work has been done, which will bring closure to the family of Ms. Small and closure to this community,” Coles County State’s Attorney Brian Bower told WCCU.

Thomas’ public defender was unavailable to speak with PEOPLE on Tuesday, and he has yet to enter a plea.

Diane’s family could not be reached for comment about his arrest.

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