OREM — Brenda Marsh appreciates the thousands of hours Orem police and the FBI put into the case of her missing daughter and grandson.
"And now because of their excellent work, we have answers and we can go forward with the purpose of recovering Emily and Gabriel’s bodies and bringing them home,” she said Tuesday.
For two years, the community has been praying for Emily "Emma" Quijano Almiron, 23, and her 3-year-old son, Gabriel, Marsh said. Now, she's asking her neighbors to pray for their remains to be found.
"Please ask that Emily and Gabriel’s remains be returned to us soon. We want them home,” she said, fighting back tears.
Charges were unsealed Monday in 4th District Court against Christopher Richard Poulson, 28, who is accused of killing Almiron, his live-in girlfriend, and her son. The charges were unsealed after authorities went to Hawaii to arrest Poulson.
Poulson was charged Oct. 24 with two counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
In a 15-page probable cause statement, investigators laid out much of the evidence they have been collecting against Poulson for the past two years, and their reasons for filing criminal charges, even though the woman and her son remain missing.
"The complete disappearance of Emily and Gabriel and their abandonment of all their property, coupled with (Poulson's) actions and obstructions and lies to police, show that (he) murdered Emily and 3-year-old Gabriel … and then wrapped them in sheets to move their bodies and then buried or otherwise disposed of and concealed their bodies," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.
"Since that time, he has continually obstructed the investigation through his lies,” Orem Police Chief Gary Giles added Tuesday.
Members of the Orem Police Department, FBI, Utah County Attorney's Office and Marsh's mother made their first comments on the case Tuesday at a news conference at the Orem Police Department.
Marsh read a prepared statement, thanking police and the community before leaving the room without taking questions.
While the family feels anguish over Emily and Gabe's deaths, "this anguish will never surpass the incredible joy we have that they were ours and that we were blessed with. They made our lives beautiful," she said.
And because of their faith, Emily and Gabriel are "not lost to us," Marsh said.
"We know that it is God’s plan to always be together,” she said.
Investigators said they don't know where the victims' remains are located. They are leaning toward the southern end of Utah County, but admit the bodies could be anywhere between Orem and St. George, detectives said Tuesday.
On Sept. 9-10, police say Poulson drove to many locations, including St. George, where he abandoned Almiron's car with the keys still in the ignition, apparently hoping someone would steal it. The car was found several months later.
Poulson also went to a Walmart, in Springville where he bought "a shovel, work gloves, an energy drink and cigarettes," charges state. After that, his phone was turned off for three hours, according to prosecutors. When it was turned back on, Poulson was "in the more rural area of Payson."
Police say Poulson used his debit card at Walmart in Lindon on Sept. 20, 2015, to purchase heavy neoprene gloves and bed sheets.
Poulson sold his car, a silver Mustang, below market value days after Almiron was killed. When detectives eventually tracked it down and processed it for evidence, "suspicious fluids were located in the trunk area. Samples were taken to be tested. A K-9 cadaver dog was also brought to the car. The K-9 indicated on the trunk area three separate times," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.
But as deputy Utah County attorney Sam Pead noted Tuesday, prosecutors in any murder case have to prove beyond a responsible doubt that the victims are deceased. That's usually done by the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office.
"In this case, we’re going to have to use different kinds of evidence to get there. But we’re confident in our ability to show both Emily and Gabriel are no longer with us,” he said.
Under the law, direct evidence and circumstantial evidence are "equally powerful," Pead said.
When asked if prosecutors would seek the death penalty or use that possible sentence as a bargaining tool in exchange for finding the bodies, Pead said none of those decisions had been made.
After Almiron disappeared, Poulson told family members and police they had had a fight and that she left, allegedly to go to California. Investigators believe Poulson even used Almiron's cellphone after she was dead to send text messages to family members, pretending to be her, according to charging documents.Comment on this story
On Aug. 24, FBI agents again interviewed Poulson in Logan and confronted him with some of the evidence they had collected. A few days later, Poulson moved to Hawaii. An extradition hearing to return him to Utah was scheduled for Tuesday.
Giles said many detectives in his department were invested in the case. Lindon Police Chief Josh Adams was the lead investigator in the case in 2015. Giles said all the detectives who have worked on the case were saddened by the outcome.
"Our heart goes out to them. Many of our investigators have come to consider them family and truly love and sympathize with them,” Adams said.