ANOKA, Minn. (AP) — A man wanted in a string of attacks last year against women in Georgia was charged Friday with killing a young woman in Minnesota whose bloodied body was found hidden in blankets in her mother's towed car.
Alberto Prece Palmer, 23, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the February beating death of 18-year-old Brittany Clardy. He made an initial appearance Friday in an Anoka courtroom and was ordered to remain in jail on $2 million bail.
"While nothing we do can bring Brittany Clardy back, we can and intend to hold accountable the person who took her life. It is a sad day for Brittany's family and we will seek justice for her," said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo. "From all the evidence in the complaint, Palmer appears to be a very dangerous man."
Palmer's arraignment is scheduled for April 10. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Shawn Webb, didn't immediately respond to a phone request for comment left at his office.
According to the criminal complaint, Palmer admitted to police that he killed Clardy at his brother's home in Brooklyn Park, a suburb north of Minneapolis. He said he found Clardy through online massage ads she placed and arranged for her to come to the house Feb. 11 for paid sex.
She drove her mother's Chrysler Concord to the house, where Palmer had sex with her, he told investigators. Palmer said they began to "tussle" afterward. He choked her until she passed out and then hit her in the head with a hammer several times, he said.
He stashed her body in her mother's car and left the vehicle in an apartment complex parking lot before returning to his brother's to clean up the blood.
Prosecutors believe Palmer has attacked several women in the past six months.
Authorities in Chamblee, Ga., have issued arrest warrants for Palmer in connection with three attacks in that state — one in September and two in December. In each attack, the assailant hired the women for sex through a website, had consensual sex with them at his apartment, then assaulted them before they could leave. Police believe the assailant had an accomplice in one of the attacks, in which the victim was held captive and raped and beaten for 36 hours.
The Minnesota complaint doesn't say why Palmer was in Minnesota or when he arrived. Others who lived at his brother's home told officers he had stayed there for most of February.
Investigators believe Clardy met up with Palmer on Feb. 11. Her mother said Clardy drove off in her car that day, saying she was going to the store, and never returned, the complaint says.
A little more than a week later, Clardy's mother got a letter saying her car had been towed from a Brooklyn Park apartment complex parking lot. Police traveled to the company's impound lot and discovered Clardy's body in the backseat, covered with bedding. An autopsy indicated she died of multiple blows to the head.
Detectives learned Clardy had been working as a prostitute and posting online massage ads that listed her cellphone number. Using phone records, they discovered Clardy had called Palmer's cellphone five times in less than 15 minutes on Feb. 11, the complaint says.
Investigators subpoenaed Palmer's phone records and determined he had used his phone to order a pizza on Feb. 13 from his brother's Brooklyn Park home, which was near the parking lot where Clardy's mother's car had been parked.
Police searched his brother's house Wednesday and found blood all over the carpet and in the garage. They also found a pair of pants they believe were Clardy's, according to the complaint.
A number of people at the home — the complaint doesn't say who they were — told officers Palmer had been staying there in February and they had seen a car in the driveway that resembled Clardy's mother's.
A girl at the home said she came home from school early one day in February and found Palmer cleaning up what he said was spilled Kool-Aid. She also identified the bedding Clardy's body was hidden in as coming from her room, the complaint says.
Detectives arrested Palmer Wednesday evening at a home in Woodbury, a St. Paul suburb, by tracking his cellphone. They found two of Clardy's cellphones in Palmer's backpack, according to police.