Alaska man accused of killing wife from Utah, hiding body in storm drain

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska man was arrested Friday and accused of killing his Utah wife and hiding her body in a storm drain.

Zarrius Ray Hildabrand, 21, was booked into jail Friday for investigation of murder and tampering with evidence, according to a press release from Anchorage police.

His wife, Saria Barney Hildabrand, 21, who is from Utah and attended Hillcrest High School in Midvale but moved to Alaska earlier this year to be with her husband, was on active duty in the military there, family members said. Saria Hildabrand was reported missing on Aug. 7, several days before her body was located in a storm drain and the case became a homicide investigation.

Her family traveled to Alaska last week to assist in the search and is planning to transport her body back to Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, for burial, according to a GoFundMe page.

"I would just like people to know that she's amazing," Saria Hildabrand's mother, Meredith Barney, said. "Just to see how many people loved her and how many people's lives she touched, it brings a comfort to my heart to hear that and to hear people's stories and see their pictures that they send me. So it's hard and beautiful."

The Hildabrands attended a bar with friends on Aug. 5 to celebrate Zarrius' birthday, police said in an amended criminal complaint. Because the Hildabrands were hung over the next morning, Saria Hildabrand decided to walk the mile distance to work instead of driving, police said.

Saria Hildabrand forgot to take her phone with her when she left the apartment, court documents say. Zarrius Hildabrand said he discovered his wife was missing later that day when he went to pick her up from work and found out she never made it.

Zarrius Hildabrand told detectives he didn't worry about his wife until 10 p.m. that night, which is when he went out looking for her. Zarrius Hildabrand said he searched for her, driving around the neighborhood, going to friends' houses, calling her parents, contacting hospitals and the jail, the criminal complaint states.

Zarrius Hildabrand contacted police and reported his wife missing on Aug. 7, about 36 hours after she left home for work. The criminal complaint says Zarrius Hildabrand said he waited so long to make the missing person report because "he thought he might find his wife and find it was a misunderstanding."

A search for Saria Hildabrand started, but police and more than 60 volunteers were unable to locate Saria Hildabrand during the next two days.

During the investigation, police discovered a text was sent from Saria Hildabrand's phone to her co-workers on Aug. 6 at 10:45 a.m. — 45 minutes after she left the apartment — saying she was not going to work. An employee responded, saying she needed to contact the business owner to notify them of her absence. Another text from the woman's phone said she did not have the owner's number, so the employee gave it to her, according to police.

Investigators determined through speaking with employees that the business owner and Saria Hildabrand's mom that Saria Hildabrand had the owner's number stored in her phone and the owner was never contacted.

Detectives asked Zarrius Hildabrand about the texts sent from his wife's phone after she had left for work and forgotten her phone in the apartment. He denied sending the texts and couldn't explain what happened, police said.

As police investigated, they found a person had reported hearing a gunshot at 2:45 a.m. on Aug. 6. The report was located just across a courtyard from the Hildabrands' apartment, though officers who were sent to the area didn't find anything suspicious, according to court documents.

When detectives spoke with Zarrius Hildabrand on Tuesday, he said he stayed home the whole day while he thought his wife was at work, but he later changed his story to say he went out and ran some errands, court documents say.

Detectives obtained information from a Fred Meyer store showing that Zarrius Hildabrand made three purchases on Aug. 6, at 12:26 p.m., 6:12 p.m. and 10 p.m.; surveillance footage shows Hildabrand exiting the store just after 10 p.m., police said. He bought a jar of marinara sauce, a set of sheets, a mattress cover, hydrogen peroxide, an empty spray bottle and some personal hygiene items, court documents state.

While police spoke to Zarrius Hildabrand on Tuesday, they reported seeing in his apartment two guns, brand new sheets of the same brand he purchased at Fred Meyer on the kitchen table and a bed with only a mattress pad on it. Zarrius Hildabrand refused to let police look under his bed, claiming embarrassing items were located there, court documents said.

Zarrius Hildabrand was interviewed by special investigators Wednesday and claimed to only have one gun. That same day, police obtained a search warrant for the Hildabrand residence and found the mattress was "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," court documents state.

A blood reagent spray discovered blood residue all over the bathtub and on some of the floors, police said. Two handguns were recovered, one of which was fully loaded and the other had one bullet out of the magazine. No shell casing was located in the apartment.

Detectives discovered on Thursday that Zarrius Hildabrand's phone data showed he was in the area of a Lowes home improvement store on Aug. 6 between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Further investigation found Hildabrand purchased a 96-gallon trash can with wheels, court documents state.

Detectives then searched the area of the Hildabrands' apartment and found a large garbage can with wheels in the back of a landscaping truck on the north side of the apartment complex. Blood was found inside the trash can but no other evidence was located.

At 6:17 p.m. Thursday, police used a drone to search the area and found a pillow and "something light colored" inside a storm drain down the trail from where the trash can was found. Police found what appeared to be human remains under the pillow and blood on the rim of the drain.

The remains were recovered from out of the drain and positively identified as Saria Hildabrand, with a gunshot wound on her left temple. Zarrius Hildabrand was taken into custody Friday by Anchorage police.

According to the GoFundMe* account, Saria Hildabrand was a member of the Alaska National Guard, was enrolled in college classes and had been living in Alaska since the beginning of the year.

Contributing: Andrew Adams

* does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for


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