The husband of a woman missing since the couple left for a trip to Graceland earlier this month has now told Hartville police that he put her body in the Tennessee River after she died of natural causes.

Hartville Police Chief Larry Dordea said Monday that the body of Roberta Snider, known as “Bobby,” has still not been found, though Tennessee authorities are looking for her.

And Benton County, Tenn., Sheriff Kenny Christopher said on Monday night that it is his understanding that the woman may have died on the way down to Graceland and then the husband disposed of her body on the way home, after he checked into a Graceland hotel by himself.

Philip Snider, 72, and Roberta, 70, drove to Graceland, the Tennessee home of Elvis Presley, on Jan. 4. But only Philip Snider came home.

He originally told police that he waved down an ambulance in a Memphis hotel parking lot instead of calling 911 after his wife died in their truck. He said she has serious medical problems.

According to authorities, Snider initially told police a medical technician whisked his wife’s body away, but he didn’t know where she was taken, so he came home.

Roberta Snider’s brother called police after hearing what happened, hoping to bring his sister’s body home.

Dordea said that Philip Snider told Hartville police the information about putting his wife in the river during a subsequent interview. In a news release, Dordea said Snider’s story began to change after authorities verified Roberta Snider never checked in to any hotels on the trip.

In a phone interview Monday, the police chief said he was reluctant to share the information publicly while the investigation continues and Roberta Snider’s body still is missing. However, Dordea said he believes the information was probably inadvertently released by Tennessee authorities after a flurry of activity searching for a body in the Tennessee River.

Philip Snider told Hartville authorities his wife “passed and he wanted to put her back with nature,” Dordea said Monday. “She wanted to be cremated. She did not want to be on somebody’s mantel, so he threw her off the route 40 bridge off the Tennessee River.”

Christopher, the Tennessee sheriff, said he was told by Ohio authorities that Snider “thought it was more humane” to put her in the river and that “he couldn’t stand the thought of her being burned.”

Authorities in Hartville and Benton County are working together on the case, Dordea said.

“The Hartville Police Department is investigating a missing person case,” Dordea said. “Somehow, somewhere this missing person stopped breathing, then presumably after she stopped breathing, she was thrown into the Tennessee River. That portion, if true, is the jurisdiction of the Benton county sheriff ... If she stopped breathing in her living room, that jurisdiction would be mine.”

Dordea said there are laws in Ohio against putting a body in a public waterway, and he assumes similar laws exist in Tennessee.

“Our primary goal is finding Roberta,” he said.

Christopher said Snider could be charged with desecration of a corpse, which is a misdemeanor, and other charges could be pending, after an autopsy. But Roberta’s body needs to be found first, he said.

“More than anything we want a recovery operation to put some closure for the family,” he said.

Christopher said his department has verified through video surveillance that only Snider checked into the hotel near Graceland. Christopher said Snider said the next morning he decided to wrap his wife in garbage bags.

Christopher said Snider told authorities his wife was sick with cancer and died from her illness in Kentucky, on the way to Memphis, and he continued on to Graceland.

Snider has been interviewed by the FBI and taken a polygraph, Dordea said. “We are still analyzing the results and working with Philip [Snider] to learn more about the circumstances regarding Roberta’s condition and location.”

Authorities are asking for anyone with information to contact the Hartville police at 330-877-2630.

Messages were left with Roberta Snider’s brother.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty