Arrest made in apparent murder of missing Tacoma man

Arrest made in apparent murder of missing Tacoma man
Santiago Cortes
TACOMA, Wash. -- Police have arrested a woman they believe is responsible for the death of a Tacoma man who has been missing for six weeks.

Margaret Effelberg has been charged with first degree murder in connection to the death of Santiago Sanchez Cortes, according to court documents.

Cortes was last seen at his home on Oct. 1, and his boss reported him missing after he failed to show up for work for several days. His body has not been recovered, but prosecutors say they have evidence that Cortes was murdered at the hands of Effelberg, including confessions to her boyfriend and her neighbors.

Investigators wrote that Effelberg had known Cortes for years and had helped him with his bills, court papers and other business. Detectives learned the final cell phone call from Cortes' phone was made the evening of Oct. 1 to Effelberg's phone and was turned off shortly thereafter.

Surveillance video and electronic records show that in the days after Cortes' disappearance, his debit card was used to buy a reciprocating saw, deodorized garbage bags, scented candles and Lysol wipes at three local stores, investigators said. Those items were later discovered at Effelberg's home after a search warrant, prosecutors said.

A husband and wife who lived next door to the suspect told police Effelberg had admitted to them that she "killed a man" and later confessed to the wife "I accidentally killed a man" as she started to cry, prosecutors said.

Detectives also interviewed Effelberg's boyfriend, who claimed he came home one day to find Effelberg nervous and pacing, eventually admitting she killed Castro, investigators said. When the boyfriend asked why, Efffelberg reportedly replied: "He disrespected me," according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Effelberg was desperate for money, had a gambling problem, and faced eviction. She's also being investigated for possession and trafficking of stolen property. Effelberg has ordered held on $500,000 bail during her first court appearance Tuesday afternoon.

A second woman, Arianna Pierrottet is charged with identity theft for allegedly using Cortes' credit cards and helping sell his stolen truck. She's being held on $150,000 bail.