Kyle Crosby said he never planned to kill his wife, Erica Crippen, on New Year's Eve in 2014, and acted out of fear afterward.

"I was scared," said Crosby, who disposed of Crippen's body in Maryland farmland in the weeks after choking her in their Mount Laurel home.

Crosby was sentenced to 31 years in prison for the crime Thursday in Superior Court in Burlington County, where he apologized to Crippen's family.

"I miss Erica, my wife, terribly," Crosby said, adding to her family, "Hopefully one day you will find it in your hearts to forgive me."

Crosby pleaded guilty in December to aggravated manslaughter and hindering apprehension. His sentencing was the result of a plea deal.

As part of the deal, charges were dismissed against Crosby's mother, Jo, 68, of Sicklerville, who sat in the front row of the courtroom wearing sunglasses, occasionally wiping away tears.

Authorities said Jo Crosby tried to help her son conceal the crime and exchanged text messages with him the day he killed Crippen, telling him, "Please do not touch her in any way or form."

She had been indicted on charges of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Jo Crosby declined to speak after the sentencing.

In the courtroom, Jasmine Garrett, 23, Crippen's cousin, said she does not hate Crosby, because he and Crippen share a daughter, Kay'lee, now 1.

But Garrett named all the moments - graduations, braiding hair, walking the children to school - that Crippen will miss with Kay'lee and a daughter she had from a previous relationship, Amirra Baker, now 8.

"You've given Amirra and Kay'lee a life sentence," Garrett said.

Amaris Torres, 26, shook and held back tears as she described Crippen as her "best friend," and talked about Crippen's ambition to become a doctor.

"When Erica passed, a piece of me died with her," Torres said.

She told Crosby, "I hope you find God. I hope he can forgive you and heal your pain."

Authorities found Crippen's body in Sykesville, about 30 miles west of Baltimore, in March 2015, more than two months after she was killed.

Investigators discovered the location after searching through more than 8,600 locations on Crosby's GPS device, from which he marked two with "Maybe" and "Idk" for "I don't know."

Crippen's neck, hands, and feet were bound with yellow electrical wire, and her mouth and nose covered with duct tape. Crosby also left a box of partly eaten chicken and a business card with an 856 area code next to her body, authorities said.

Crippen was reported missing Jan. 7, 2015, after her older daughter was not picked up from school. Crosby, who authorities said disposed of Crippen's body late Jan. 10 or early Jan. 11, was arrested Jan. 12 in Bellmawr after a traffic stop.

According to an affidavit, the couple had argued about Crosby's drug abuse and other behavior.

Judge Charles Delehey said Thursday that had the case gone to trial, it would have almost certainly resulted in a murder conviction. He said the plea deal allowed Crippen's family to avoid the agony that would have entailed.

mboren@phillynews.com 856-779-3829 @borenmc