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Army Soldier Charged with Murdering New Wife, a Combat Medic Found Dead in a Storm Drain

Zarrius Hildabrand faces charges of first- and second-degree murder as well as tampering with evidence in the death of Saria Hildabrand. His bail has been set at $500,000.

By Grace Jidoun
Husbands Who Killed Their Wives

A 21-year-old combat medic in the Alaska National Guard was found dead in a storm drain along a trail near her Anchorage apartment last Thursday, and her Army cannon crew member husband was arrested the next day for her murder.

Zarrius Hildabrand, also 21, faces charges of first- and second-degree murder as well as tampering with evidence in the death of Saria Hildabrand. His bail has been set at $500,000.

RELATED: Man Charged with Murder After Missing Wife's Body Found Near Burned SUV in Georgia

The newlyweds were out late celebrating Zarrius’ birthday on the night of August 5 and returned to their Anchorage home at 2 a.m. the next day, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Law & CrimeAt around 2:45 a.m., a neighbor reported hearing a gunshot. But nothing appeared suspicious when police arrived to investigate, according to a sworn complaint filed with an arrest warrant by an Anchorage police detective.

Conflicting accounts of what happened the day of Saria's disappearance, August 6, were given to investigators. According to the complaint, when police questioned the suspect, he said Saria was hungover from the previous night and decided to walk to Bread and Brew, her workplace, about a mile away, between 9 and 10 a.m., adding that she didn’t bring her phone.

A photo of Saria Barney Hildebrand

Saria's colleagues, however, told police they received a text from her phone at 10:45 a.m. saying she was calling out of work. When a co-worker texted back advising Saria to check in with her boss, she did not respond, the complaint said. Zarrius has denied sending the text.

Zarrius told investigators he “didn’t really worry about his wife” until he went to pick her up that evening and discovered she was a no-show at work. He allegedly said that he waited until that Monday afternoon to report her missing because he believed she might show up and he’d “find it was a misunderstanding,” the complaint said.

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In another alleged inconsistency, Zarrius told police that he stayed home and “vegetated” on August 6, but he later allegedly said that he was out running errands. According to a police report, when Zarrius was questioned, a police officer saw two pistols on the kitchen table (the suspect later told police he only had one). Police added that Zarrius allegedly bought new bedding, hydrogen peroxide, and a 96-gallon trash can with wheels on Sunday.

Once Saria was reported missing, the search for her immediately kicked into high gear with a grassroots effort of some 60 to 70 volunteers looking for her on just one day alone, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Friends and family searched the path near her home and a dog park she was fond of. A missing poster flier for Saria was circulated, which her husband posted on his Facebook page a day before his arrest.

A photo of Saria Barney Hildebrand

A police drone search on Thursday discovered evidence that led to Saria’s body, which had been concealed with a pillow, authorities say. According to the complaint, she had a gunshot wound to her left temple.

After obtaining a warrant, investigators searched the Hildabrands' apartment, and when they lifted a mattress, they described it as “saturated by human blood.”

“There was so much blood on the mattress that the blood soaked through onto the carpet and into the wood frame,” the complaint said.

RELATED: Husband Arrested After Wife's Remains Found in Suitcases along Florida Beach

After investigators used a special spray that makes “invisible” and cleaned-up blood visible, they found even more blood in the bathtub and on some of the floors, according to authorities. Blood was also found in a trash can adjacent to the local trail where Saria's body was discovered.

With tears in her eyes, Saria’s mother, Meredith Barney, spoke to NBC Anchorage affiliate KTUU-TV, calling for “Justice for Saria. She deserves it… She’s just like the most amazing, precious child ever. She’s just always been looking for the future, happy, and really like loved. She loved everybody. Everyone loved her.”

The first-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison.

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