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Body of Venus Stewart found more than 8 years after disappearance

WAKESHMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- More than eight years after a West Michigan mother disappeared, police believe they've found her remains.

Venus Stewart

Michigan State Police tell FOX 17 Doug Stewart led them to the body of his estranged wife, Venus on Monday. They say the remains were found in Wakeshma Township in Kalamazoo County.

Venus Stewart  disappeared from her parents' home in Colon Township on April 26, 2010 while going to get the mail. She had been staying with them at the time, while going through a divorce with Doug. The case received national attention and was even featured on Nancy Grace.

Police had long believed Doug kidnapped her and murdered her. They say blood was found in his truck in Virginia, along with a receipt for a tarp and shovel.

Investigators told FOX 17 Monday a medical examiner from Western Michigan University was assisting at the scene. They also tell FOX 17 they've been visiting Doug Stewart in prison once a year for the past several years. Officials say it was about a year ago he told them he could take them to Venus' body. Since then, investigators have been getting paperwork and other permissions in order. They also notified family members of the developments and search.

“We took him back into the woods and he looked, he looked in an area. He brought us right there in about 30 seconds,” said Detective/First Lieutenant Chuck Christensen with Michigan State Police.  “We recovered a tarp, which we know was used back in 2010 in which he described to us as being left in the hole with her when he dug the grave.”

Investigators say they believe Doug finally revealed the location of Venus' body because her family and his family are back on good terms.

“He told me, ‘I just wanted it over with,'”said Christensen.

Officials says the private property where the remains were found are familiar to Doug Stewart, adding he worked there chopping wood when he was 15-years-old.  Detectives say it is common for killers to commit a murder in an area they know. Officials told FOX 17 Monday that Venus was killed in the area her remains were found.

Doug Stewart during his sentencing in 2011

Police say a medical examiner will work to confirm the remains belong to Venus.

Doug Stewart is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of Venus' murder. The verdict was reached after three hours of testimony. It came after a trial in which a witness named Ricky Spencer testified he provided Stewart’s alibi by dressing like him and staying at his apartment in Virginia. Spencer said he also used Stewart’s credit cards and computer in his absence. In exchange for his testimony, Ricky Spencer was given one year in jail and three years probation. He was released from the St. Joseph County Jail in March 2012.

Following the verdict, Doug Stewart tried to overturn his conviction, claiming he was denied ‘due process’ during his trial and that there was an error with jury instructions regarding first degree murder charges. The State Court of Appeals denied his motions, saying there was no error.

Detectives say Doug Stewart has offered to help Michigan State Police with their homicide school training when it comes to how a murderer's mind works.

Meanwhile, loved ones have created a Facebook page dedicated to Venus Stewart. It has updated the public on searches for the mother of two over the years. The page is also active in helping keep the word out about other missing persons, as well as preventing domestic violence.

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