Man Who Spent Three Decades on the Run Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in Wife's 1981 Death

North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty To Killing Wife in 1981
Guilford County Jail

02/25/2016 AT 05:00 PM EST

On Wednesday, a 72-year-old North Carolina man who spent more than three decades eluding police pleaded guilty to killing his wife in 1981, court records reveal.

In Henrico Circuit Court, Erroll McFarland pleaded guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Mary Alice McFarland, who was strangled to death.

Authorities say Erroll McFarland disappeared several days before the discovery of his wife's remains inside the couple's Richmond home. Neighbors at the time told police they thought the couple had run off together, authorities say.

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Mary Alice had been reported missing on April 28, 1981, and one of her young children found her less than a week later in a closet, wrapped in plastic.

Police caught up with McFarland last fall in North Carolina, where the septuagenarian was receiving hospice care.

Officials claim they were alerted to McFarland's whereabouts after he used his Social Security number for the first time in 30 years to enroll in Medicare.

McFarland, who has terminal prostate and bone cancer, was married to his wife for three years before her death.

He faces 10 years in prison when sentenced next month, officials tell PEOPLE.

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