Gary Leon Toland hit his wife with his fist. She then fell and hit her head on a rock, according to court documents.
Shortly after, Toland tossed his dead wife's body into the Jordan River.
Toland, 45, was charged in 3rd District Court Tuesday with first-degree felony murder, obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, and desecration of a dead body, a third-degree felony.
Toland told police, "He remembered that during a fight when he was so enraged that he was swinging a shovel around. The defendant remembers hitting someone with his fist, and then that person hit their head on a rock," according to charging documents.
Donna Kay Toland's body was found in the Jordan River Feb. 6 by two children playing by the river near the Utah State Fairpark. The Utah state medical examiner determined Donna Kay Toland, 40, died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Gary Toland had actually called police Feb. 2, pretending to be an anonymous caller. He told emergency dispatchers, "he had pushed a female into the Jordan River, and he wanted the police to find her and tell her husband," according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.
Police were unable to find a body at that time.
Toland had also filed a missing person's report on his wife earlier this year, claiming the last time he saw her was Dec. 1, 2007, according to jail records.
Donna Toland's parents told police that Gary had called them Dec. 2, 2007 alleging two men had thrown his wife into the river, according to the jail report. On Dec. 8, Donna's parents received a phone call from Gary Toland's parents saying they believed she was killed by Gary.
Police have not said whether they believe Donna Toland was killed in December or earlier this year.
A key break for detectives came from a woman, identified in court papers only as "T.R.," who told investigators Gary Toland had told her that his wife "would be found in the river."The Tolands were transients. Gary Toland was arrested last week near the homeless shelter.