RENO, Nev. — An Idaho ranch hand has been arrested as a suspect in the killing of an Elko County woman after sheriff’s deputies say he led them earlier this week to her severed head buried a mile from where her decapitated body was found in northeast Nevada’s high desert a month ago.
Jose Segundo-Huizar, 46, of Jerome, Idaho was being held without bail Thursday in the Elko County Jail on suspicion of open murder in the death of Carmen Magallanes-Sanchez, 34, of Ryndon.
Authorities asked for the public’s help in identifying the victim after a hunter came across a shallow grave Sept. 4 just off the Mountain City Highway about 30 miles north of Elko. But they didn’t disclose until this week that she had been decapitated because they didn’t want to compromise the investigation.
“We had decided as an investigative team to keep several details secret to see who knows what, based on what information,” Elko County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin McKinney told The Associated Press.
The Elko Daily Free Press first reported Monday night’s arrest after Sheriff Jim Pitts told the newspaper Segundo-Huizar admitted killing the victim.
McKinney said detectives working in concert with the Idaho State Police recovered “quite a bit” evidence — including a potential murder weapon — after serving a search warrant Monday at Segundo-Huizar’s home in Idaho just north of Twin Falls.
“He made some admissions and then he voluntarily came down to Elko to show us where parts of the body were buried,” McKinney said. “I haven’t received word if we have recovered a knife yet, but we recovered a hammer we are sending off for analysis.”
McKinney said they haven’t positively identified the skull, pending results of an autopsy at the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office in Reno.
“But circumstantially, we think it is our victim,” he said. He said it isn’t yet clear whether she was decapitated before or after she was dead. Parts of the remains had been scattered across the sagebrush-strewn desert by animals.
Segundo-Huizar and his wife in Idaho have two sons living in Mexico, authorities said.
Detectives have been working on the case since Magallanes-Sanchez’ boyfriend reported her missing on Aug. 24. They began to develop leads through social media shortly after they identified the body through fingerprints on Sept. 15, McKinney said.
“We did some searches of her Facebook pages and went through some communication via cellphone and emails and things like that and recovered some information that led us to our suspect”, he said.
Pitts told the Free Press that Segundo-Huizar claims the pair had an intermittent relationship and that his statements suggest they got into an altercation in a dispute over having sex.
“That is what we got from him at this point,” McKinney confirmed. “I wouldn’t really call it a domestic dispute because they didn’t live together. There was some sort of association — romantic, or I’m not sure how you would put it.”
Segundo-Huizar made an initial court appearance Tuesday before Elko Justice of the Peace Mason Simons, who approved his application for counsel and appointed the public defender’s office to represent him.
Kriston Hill, chief public defender, told Simons she would handle the case. She did not immediately respond to The Associated Press’ requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
Prosecutors told the judge they intended to file a formal criminal complaint late this week or next. Deputy District Attorney Tyler Ingram said in an email to the AP on Thursday he could not comment because the case is pending.