RIVERHEAD - A retired NYPD transit officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the killing of his wife inside their Lake Grove home.

Paul Leitgeb, 49, was indicted on second-degree murder charges in the death of 42-year-old Tricia Odierna. She was found inside their home on Oct. 1.

Police say Leitgeb fled to upstate New York near the Appalachian Trail. He was taken into custody five days after the murder.

In an exclusive interview, District Attorney Tom Spota told News 12 that Leitgeb not only left handwritten letters confessing to the murder, but texted his brother and sister to tell them what he had done. Spota says Leitgeb asked his brother to pick up his two children and three nephews the couple was caring for.

"He told them that he killed his wife," says Spota. "He asked that the brother meet the children at the bus stop and that he pick up the children and do not let them in the house."

Authorities say it was Leitgeb's brother who then called police. Officers showed up and found Odierna's body on the couple's bed. Police say he hit her in the head with a baseball bat and strangled her.

Spota says they tracked Leitgeb upstate after he dropped his cellphone. It was found by a hiker, who called Leitgeb's home.

Leitgeb was held without bail.  He is due back in court on Dec. 11.