By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After six long months of waiting, a St. Paul family now knows who investigators believed killed their loved one.

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Police found Megan Neely dead in her St. Paul apartment last November. She had been missing for several days, and family members were worried when she didn’t show up for a gathering.

Neely’s sister, Samantha Neely, said she sometimes cries when she drives by the apartment where her sister’s body was found. But on Monday, her tears of sorrow turned to those of joy after authorities charged Corey Dean Thomas for her sister’s murder.

“We are relieved,” Neely said. “It’s relief for the kids, for me and her family and friends.”

The Neelys first reported Megan missing on Oct. 15, 2011. An initial search by police of Neely’s apartment turned up nothing. But another search of the home two days later uncovered her body in a crawl space.

Investigators say Neely had been strangled.

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According to the criminal complaint, Thomas — Neely’s boyfriend — sold his car and boarded a bus for a one-way trip to Miami that same day.

Miami police arrested and questioned him about the murder. When asked about scratches on his neck, he denied they came from Neely.

Police say since Thomas was already in custody for a parole violation, they waited for DNA evidence to help make the case against him.

“Often times in homicide there are circumstantial cases, so one of the things we wanted to do was make sure we had that DNA evidence,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

DNA taken from Neely’s fingernails eliminated 99.97 percent of the general population of the murder charge; but not Thomas. He is now facing second-degree murder charges.

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Choi says Thomas has a history of domestic violence with three prior assault convictions.

Reg Chapman