WINCHESTER, Va. - A 56-year-old caregiver accused of killing an 85-year-old woman last June appeared in court today.
Frances Moss-Hopkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in order to maintain her innocence, because the state has evidence connecting her to the murder.
Moss-Hopkins will be sentenced in August; prosecutors will be presenting the evidence and intend to have family members testify.
Officials said her attorney is likely to present information from mental health facilities to convince the judge to be lenient with the amount of time she will serve.
The maximum time Moss-Hopkins could be sentenced is 40 years in prison.
New details have emerged in the death of 85-year-old Peg Sinclair from White Post.
Authorities with the Hampshire County Sheriff's Office said in a press release that what they believe to be Sinclair's body was found "in pieces."
The release states that the body parts were found near Scott's Gully Road, and it is believed the parts were dumped there on June 18, which is the same day Sinclair was reported missing.
According to the press release, "the suspect(s) burned some of the evidence and body parts of the victim near the area where the body was found."
After being missing for several days, police confirmed on Tuesday that 85-year-old Peg Sinclair was found dead and killed. Police believe she was killed by her caregiver during the time neighbors were worried about her wellbeing.
"I was very concerned. We had a lot of good officers out here from many departments where they were investigating as best they could. They even had a helicopter from Maryland here, and apparently there were no positive results,” said neighbor Kenneth Beckwith.
Sinclair went missing around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday near White Post. Police said that her family told them that she was starting to show early signs of dementia.
Beckwith has been living in the same neighborhood where Sinclair went missing from for about nine years, and he said although he didn't know her personally, he recalls seeing her a walking around a few times before she disappeared.
"I’ve seen her walking along the sidewalks here exercising. I did see her two days prior to her disappearance. She came down the street here,” added Beckwith.
His granddaughter, Jennifer Colbert, lives with him and said the thought of an elderly person being missing for several days scares her.
"You see people walking around. You don't think that, in a gated community, something like this, where someone just walks away, disappears or possibly is taken, and there's no information' no one knows what happened. It's scary,” said Colbert.
The only sign of Sinclair was her assisted walker, which was found nearby on a busy highway.
Police said after receiving several tips about possible sightings of Peg, they extended the search to surrounding areas.
"We’ve expanded to a more individualized location, and we're talking to individual people,” said Capt. Donnie Lang, Frederick County Virginia Sheriff’s Office.
Neighbors said the community has a large population of elderly people and is surrounded by a vast wooded area. On top of the police search teams, community volunteers offered to help as well.
What led to Sinclair’s murder is still under investigation.