IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Florida man charged with murder after wife disappears amid suspicious coronavirus messages

Texts from Gretchen Anthony's cell phone said she had COVID-19 but there's no medical record of it

Police arrested a Florida man in connection with the death of his estranged wife, whose friends had received mysterious text messages from the missing woman's phone saying she had been hospitalized with COVID-19, officials said.

Jupiter resident David Anthony, 43 was being held without bail at the Doña Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, following his arrest on April 1, jail records showed on Monday.

David E. Anthony
David E. Anthony.Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

The body of his estranged wife, Gretchen Anthony, 51, has not yet been found, a Jupiter police representative told NBC News on Monday. Anthony and the suspect were still married but had separated and were in divorce proceedings, police said.

Several friends told police they had received odd text messages from Gretchen Anthony's cell phone last month, claiming she had tested positive for coronavirus and was being hospitalized.

One of those witnesses even told police that Gretchen Anthony's mother had received a text, purportedly from the then-missing woman, "saying she is on a ventilator," according to a probable cause affidavit filed by Jupiter police.

No hospital or insurance records showed any COVID-19 patient named Gretchen Anthony, police said. She was last spotted at work on March 20 and she appeared to be healthy and in good spirits, police said.

"As the investigation progressed and further evidence [was] collected, it is believed David E. Anthony is responsible for her disappearance and related homicide which was determined to have occurred on" March 21, according to a police statement.

Anthony's dark blue Mini Cooper was found in the parking lot of the Jupiter Medical Center, officials said. Security video showed that car was driven into the hospital by a "taller white male" who exited the vehicle's driver side on March 24, according to the affidavit.

David Anthony is 6-foot-7, according to jail records.

Gretchen Anthony's neighbors told detectives they heard a woman screaming from her home on March 21. One witness recalled the cry of, "No. No, it hurts!" according to the affidavit.

Neighbors also recounted seeing a black truck, closely resembling the suspect's, at the scene that day.

Inside the victim's home, police said, they found bleach stains on the garage floor, a rag and bottles of cleaning agents on the kitchen island and towels in the washing machine with a "reddish substance on the that appeared to be blood," the affidavit said.

A Palm Beach County Sheriff's cadaver dog "displayed a positive indication at a particular location of the floor in the garage" of Gretchen Anthony's home," according to the police affidavit.

David Anthony was eventually captured in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after signals from mobile phones belonging to the suspect and Anthony "were hitting off of cellular towers in Texas," the affidavit said. There was no record of Anthony retaining a defense lawyer yet, officials said Monday.