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Hugh Carey, Deseret News
Police investigates the home of a suspicious death Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Kearns, UT.
We are confident that had the suspect not been arrested when he was, he would have fled the jurisdiction and attempts to recover him would be greatly aggravated by the fact that he was in a foreign country. —Jim Winder, Salt Lake County Sheriff

TAYLORSVILLE — Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said it was "good police work" that led police to a suspect in the death of a Taylorsville woman just hours before the suspect was to board a plane to El Salvador.

Bryan Steve Quintanilla, 18, had tickets on a 10 a.m. flight out of Salt Lake City International Airport when he was arrested around 7 a.m. Saturday, Winder said. The teenager has since been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated murder in the death of Margaret Steffey, 59.

Unified police officers were called to Steffey's home at 3973 W. Blue Meadow Drive (5850 South) Wednesday on a missing person report after members of the woman's family told police they had neither seen nor heard from her since Saturday. While searching Steffey's home, officers found her body and launched into an "intensive" investigation, Winder said.

Evidence inside the home led police to believe her death was suspicious and an autopsy indicated the woman had been suffocated. Winder said detectives on the case noted that an ATM card missing from Steffey's home was being used on a regular basis.

"We were monitoring that and able to utilize that information in our apprehension," Winder said, noting that Quintanilla's arrest was just hours before his scheduled flight. "We are confident that had the suspect not been arrested when he was, he would have fled the jurisdiction and attempts to recover him would be greatly aggravated by the fact that he was in a foreign country."

The sheriff said Quintanilla had family ties in El Salvador.

Investigators found no damage to any exterior property that would indicate a forced entry into Steffey's home, where the woman lived alone. Winder said it is believed that the teenager knew Steffey.

"We believe there was at least a passing acquaintance, if not a more in-depth acquaintance," Winder said. "We're still trying to identify specifically what that relationship was."

Winder said investigators are also working to determine when and how Quintanilla obtained Steffey's ATM card, which the teenager used to purchase food, alcohol and travel tickets. Winder said that at least since Steffey's death, Quintanilla appeared to be living a transient life, sleeping in his car or fields in the Taylorsville area.

According to a Salt Lake County Jail booking report, Quintanilla admitted to using Steffey's bank card on at least eight occasions, but refused to say how he obtained the card. The teenager also denied ever being inside Steffey's home.

The investigation is ongoing and Winder said detectives are working to determine whether anyone else played a part in Steffey's death.

"If anyone has any other information, we're happy to hear it," the sheriff said. "Our investigators will not rest until this case is closed."

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Still, he praised the work of as many as 40 officers who took on the investigation in the middle of a week already busy with preparations for a funeral and the Salt Lake City Marathon.

"This case, in my opinion, represents extremely good police work," Winder said, adding that some investigators volunteered to participate in 48-hour surveillance shifts. "The work was just tremendous."

Quintanilla has been booked for investigation of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, identity fraud, possession of identification documents, financial transaction card violations, theft by deception and unlawful use of a card used in automated banking, Winder said.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam