A US Army soldier accused of murdering his new wife had posted a Facebook appeal for help with the search a day before her body was found in a drain.
Zarrius Hildabrand, 21, was taken into custody Friday after a days-long search for Alaska National Guard combat medic Saria Hildabrand, 21, Anchorage police said. He is charged with first degree murder and tampering with evidence.
Mr. Hildabrand reported his wife missing on August 7. She was last seen leaving the Campbell Park apartment complex in Anchorage where she lived with her husband on Sunday morning to walk to work. But she never returned home.
When a search for Saria was launched, her husband joined the effort and shared his wife’s “missing” poster on his Facebook page, pleading with the public for help.
“Updated information about my missing wife SHARE AND REPOST!!!!!!” Mr Hildabrand wrote to the post on Wednesday.
Saria’s body was found the next day in a 4-by-5-foot drain near the couple’s apartment.
She had a gunshot wound to her left temple, Anchorage Daily News said, citing the police incident report.
The couple met at basic school last summer and, according to her family, married in December 2022.
Mr. Hildabrand is a gun crew member assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 11th Airborne Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Saria joined the Alaska Army National Guard 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment in April 2023 as a combat medic. She moved from Utah to Alaska to be with him.
Her devastated mother, Meredith Barney, accused Mr. Hildabrand of lying to the family. She told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday: “He walked around with me for hours looking for my daughter, knowing she was dead.
“He lied to me several times and tried to play it off like he was a concerned husband.”
Mr Hildabrand reportedly told investigators he was “not really worried about his wife” until around 10pm on Sunday, when she failed to return from her second job at a local restaurant.
He also told police that his wife walked to work that day because they were both hungover from the night before and neither felt like driving. She had also left her phone at home, he reported, which her family said was unusual for her.
In the indictment of documents obtained by Law&Crime, Mr. Hildabrand and Saria were out with friends on the night of August 5 to celebrate Zarrius’ 21st birthday.
They returned home around 2 a.m. and it was later reported that a neighbor heard a gunshot from a nearby apartment around 2:45 a.m. It has not been confirmed which apartment the shot came from.
Saria’s colleagues later told police they received text messages from her phone at 10:45 a.m. Sunday saying she was calling because she was not at work. This contradicted Mr Hildabrand’s statement that she had left her phone at home when she went to work. He allegedly denied sending the texts himself.
When police questioned Mr Hildabrand at the couple’s apartment on Tuesday, they saw two guns on the table, according to KTUU. It was reported that one of the guns was fully loaded with a single bullet missing.
According to the indictment, police noted that the bed was only covered with a mattress and new unopened sheets were nearby. When they asked Mr. Hildabrand about it, he refused to lift the bed, claiming that it contained “embarrassing” items such as “stuff for sex”.
Police later learned that Mr Hildabrand bought a set of new sheets, a mattress cover, hydrogen peroxide, an empty spray bottle and a jar of marinara sauce on August 6, the complaint said. It is not clear what the sauce was used for.
A search warrant was issued for the apartment, and police found the mattress “saturated with human blood,” the indictment said.
“There was so much blood on the mattress that the blood soaked onto the carpet and into the wooden frame.”
The complaint also detailed evidence of blood in the bathtub, “most likely after ‘cleaning up’ efforts were made.”
Hildabrand was dressed in an orange prison suit when he appeared in court on Friday. He was appointed a public defender and is being held on $500,000 bond.
Saria’s distraught family spoke to the media after the hearing and her mother said she had not been concerned about her daughter’s husband before.
“I didn’t, not something that wasn’t abnormal for newlyweds trying to live together,” Barney said.
But she added that she suspected something was off when Mr Hildabrand reportedly called her from Saria’s phone which he claimed she had left at home.
A GoFundMe page was originally set up to raise money for the search. It is now being used to cover funeral costs and return Saria’s remains to Utah.
As of Monday morning, the fundraiser surpassed its goal of $20,000 with a total of $20,452.
“She’s like the most amazing, precious child ever,” her mother added in tears on Friday. “She’s just always been looking to the future, happy and truly loved. She loved everyone. Everyone loved her.”