Larry Millete pleaded not guilty last week to murdering his wife, who disappeared from their Chula Vista home more than nine months ago, but her family is now praying that he'll reverse course and lead authorities to her remains.
"We're praying he'll do it for his kids, that he'll let them know where mommy is," Maya Millete's older sister, Maricris Drouaillet, told Fox News on Monday. "We believe he's not that evil and hopefully he'll have a change of heart."
Maya disappeared from the family's home on Jan. 7, the same day that she made an appointment with a divorce lawyer after at least a year of marital troubles.
Larry has maintained his innocence and accused his wife in court papers of "voluntarily" leaving the family, but he was arrested on Tuesday in a raid at their home. He appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon.
Maya's remains have still not been found despite nine months of searches by her family, friends, authorities, and community members.
"The investigation in this case, while we know that Larry Millete is responsible for the murder, is ongoing, and bringing [Maya] home to have a proper burial for her family is ongoing," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said at a press conference last week.
Stephan explained that while the search area is still vast, authorities believe that Maya's remains might be roughly 2.5 hours from the family's home.
Larry Millete told authorities that he spent more than 11 hours at Solana Beach with his 4-year-old son on Jan. 8, the day after Maya disappeared. He left his phone at home, but Stephan said that Larry entered his home address into his car's entertainment system 2.5 hours before he got back home.
Larry Millete pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of an assault weapon last Thursday. (KSWB)
Drouaillet said that the searches are now concentrated in areas that Larry and Maya would frequent roughly two to three hours from Chula Vista.
"Now that the DA's office gave us a little more specific area to search, we are all fired up," she said Monday. "It gave us hope that we'll be able to bring her home."
Last weekend, the family searched near Ocotillo Wells, a desert area about two hours northeast of Chula Vista.
Despite the absence of Maya's remains, the aistrict Attorney is confident that her office can prosecute Larry for murder.
"California law, similar to across the nation, is very clear that we can file murder charges despite not having a body. In fact, the law is so crystal clear that we cannot let someone murder someone and gain a benefit by hiding a body in a way that we can't discover it," Stephan said when announcing the charges.
"There is case law that we will be using in this case that makes it even more clear that a missing body is circumstantial evidence that there was foul play and that it's a murder."
Larry is currently being held without bond but is due back in court for a bail hearing next month.
Superior Court Judge Maryann D'Addezio signed off on a criminal protective order that will prevent Larry from contacting certain individuals if he does make bail before trial.
"Mr. Millete, you must not harass, strike, threaten, assault, follow, stalk, molest, destroy or damage critical or real property, disturb their peace, keep them under surveillance or block their movements," D'Addezio told Millete about the individuals in the order, who were not publicly named.
Meanwhile, the couple's three young children – ages 5, 10, and 11 – are currently safe with Larry's parents, but Maya's family is hoping they can spend time with them soon.
"We haven't seen them yet. We're hoping we can soon," Drouaillet said. "We know they're in good hands because they're with their grandparents."