A Cape Breton man charged in the death of his wife two years ago has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Lawrence Peter MacLean, 44, of Scotchtown was originally charged with first-degree murder, but he pleaded guilty to the reduced charge Tuesday.

A hiker found the badly decomposed body of Delores MacLean in the woods not far from the family home in September 2004.

The 42-year-old mother of five had been missing for 10 days.

Lawrence MacLean was arrested the following March and charged with first-degree murder. Police said they received a tip that enabled them to charge him.

Outside the courthouse in Sydney Tuesday, prosecutor Ken Haley calledthe casea "classic" domestic violence story.

"Husband and wife having a difficult, volatile relationship, which resulted in the death of a spouse," Haley said. "Imean, we see it far too frequently in this community."

MacLean's trial on the first-degree murder charge was set to begin later this month.

Sgt. Walter Rutherford, one of the lead investigators in the case, was in court as MacLean pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

"I'm extremely pleased to see closure for the family," Rutherford said.

The MacLean children, who now range in age from eight to 17, live with a relative of their late mother's.

MacLean faces an automatic sentence of life in prison. A judge will decide later this month how many years MacLean must serve before he's eligible for parole.