As grisly details continued to emerge, a 27-year-old man on Crete was charged with the murder and rape of 59-year-old U.S. biologist Suzanne Eaton, confessing to hitting her with his car, abducting her, raping her, and throwing her into a World War II bunker to die.
The body of Eaton, who was a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and was attending a conference when she went out for a hike, had broken ribs and facial bones and multiple injuries to both hands as she tried to also fight off a knife attack, authorities said.
Crete police said a Greek man from the island – who was no identified apart from his initials although his face was widely shown on the media and he was said to be the son of a priest – admitted to a “violent criminal act,” telling investigators he struck Eaton with his car and abducted her “motivated by the intention to commit sexual assault,” Crete police spokeswoman Eleni Papathanasiou said.
He was said to be married with two children, aged 1 and 2, with his family shocked by the killing and the charges against him.
Eaton, 59, went missing on July 2. Her body was found six days later after an extensive search and 50,000 euro ($56,052) reward for information put up by her family before the body was found.
The suspect remains in police custody and will appear in court before being placed in pre-trial detention, court officials said. The suspect said he hit Eaton twice to stop her, the police spokeswoman said.
“According to his claims, he placed the victim, unconscious, in the trunk of his car and transferred her to a ventilation drain in the wartime storage (tunnel), where after raping her, abandoned her there.”
Crete Police Chief Lt. Gen. Constantine Lagoudakis told reporters the investigation had been helped by video footage from closed-circuit cameras and questioning people in the area.
“A particularly important element of our investigation was the discovery of recent tire tracks near the (tunnel). This, in conjunction with the position of the body when it was found, suggested that it had been transferred to the site,” Lagoudakis said.
Police said after abandoning Eaton’s body the suspect re-blocked the entrance to the drain with a wooden pallet and cleaned the trunk of his car at a graveyard, attempting to remove all forensic evidence. It was not clear from the police account whether Eaton was killed in the bunker or in the car.
Lagoudakis told reporters that, “The identification of tracks from vehicle’s wheels, that were leading to the shelter’s drain proved an evidence of critical importance that directed our investigation,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “This fact, in combination with the position of the body in the area, strongly supported the argument that the victim was transferred to this location.”
He said that during extensive questioning the suspect “provided too many conflicting answers and under the light of the collected evidence, he confessed his crime.”
Eaton, from Armonk, New York, was based in Dresden, Germany, where she worked at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. Police said she was visiting the island for a fourth time.
Born in Oakland, Eaton studied at Brown University and the University of California, Los Angeles. She was a founding member of the Max Planck Institute and was one of its senior research group leaders. She was married and had two children.
“We are deeply shocked and disturbed by this tragic event,” the institute said in a statement last week. “Suzanne was an outstanding and inspiring scientist, a loving spouse and mother, an athlete as well as a truly wonderful person beloved to us all. Her loss is unbearable.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)