Once behind bars, even notorious felons tend to fade from public view. But the mother-and-son murder team of Sante and Kenneth Kimes, convicted earlier this year of the 1998 slaying of elderly Manhattan millionaire Irene Silverman, seem determined not to let that happen. On Nov. 14 Kenneth, 25, shocked police by confessing that he had indeed killed Silverman, then wrapped her body in garbage bags and, with Sante, now 66, along for the ride, drove to New Jersey and dumped the corpse at an unidentified excavation site. It was a stunning departure from his protestations of innocence during the pair's sensational three-month trial. (Police, who have yet to begin a second search for the body, are still scouting possible locations.)

Just one month earlier Kenneth had made headlines when he held Court TV producer Maria Zone hostage for four hours after putting a pen to her throat during an interview at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. Sante, meanwhile, was transferred to solitary confinement at the women's prison at Bedford Hills, N.Y., after guards found a makeshift weapon fashioned from a pen in her cell in October.

Why did Kimes confess? Law enforcement sources say he and his mother fear their pending extradition to California, where they will stand trial for the 1998 murder of businessman David Kazdin and could face the death penalty. According to an NYPD detective, Los Angeles investigators offered Kenneth a deal: "The police said, 'Help us find the woman and we'll help you with a deal in California.' "

Another explanation for the recent turbulence in Kenneth's life may be simply that he is suffering from emotional isolation. According to his attorney, Mel Sachs, Kenneth, separated from Sante while both serve sentences in excess of 100 years, misses his mother terribly. "This is painful for him," says Sachs without irony. "Kenny is in a desperate situation."