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The imprisoned ex-boyfriend of a Michigan university student who vanished over 11 years ago and is still missing was charged with her murder last week.
Brad Cournaya, 53, is currently serving a prison sentence for sex trafficking minors. He is now accused of killing 34-year-old Krista Lueth, a horticulture student at Michigan State University who vanished on Nov. 11, 2008, according to WLNS-TV. She is believed to have disappeared after taking a bus home from classes, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Cournaya was previously named a suspect in the killing in 2014 by Michigan State Police. Under questioning, he was said to have been “untruthful as to his whereabouts" and provided authorities with inconsistent statements, WLNS reported.
The evening Lueth vanished, Cournaya’s vehicle broke down in a southbound lane of U.S. Route 127, according to local station WZZM-TV. Lueth’s photo identification and cellphone were allegedly later found in the vicinity of his vehicle.
Lueth and Cournaya had been broken up roughly a week before the young woman vanished, the Detroit Free Press reported. Her body has not been found and a $100,000 reward was previously issued for information related to her whereabouts.
In 2017, Cournaya was convicted for sex trafficking a minor and using a computer to commit a crime. He’s now serving a 16 to 40-year sentence, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. In court, prosecutors painted Cournaya as a violent sexual deviant with “almost no rehabilitative potential.”
"We have a defendant who stands before you here today who has a lifelong adult criminal history of violent sexual crimes against women and children," Assistant Ingham County Prosecutor Bill Crino said in court.
He denied the charges throughout the trial. In turn, Cournaya, who was 50 at the time, accused prosecutors of attempting to railroad him and argued that the jury had been turned against him over his suspected involvement in Lueth’s disappearance and possible death.
"Mr. Crino and his detectives are the ones trying to prosecute me for a homicide,” he told the court. “And that's what this is all about, an alleged homicide."
He was found guilty after approximately 90 minutes of jury deliberation.
At 18, Cournaya was also found guilty of burglarizing a woman’s apartment and raping her while brandishing a knife. He was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison in that case, WLNS reported.
In 2000, only two months after his release, he was arrested for attacking a female relative. Cournaya was later convicted on child abuse charges and sent back to prison for another four to eight years.
He's expected to be arraigned on the charge of one count of open murder in the coming days.
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