US Hiker Killed in Spain Was Tricked by Fake Trail Marker

Miguel Angel Munoz found guilty in Denise Thiem's 2015 death
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2017 6:03 AM CDT
Man Killed US Hiker After Tricking Her With Fake Trail Marker
A sign along the Camino de Santiago (though this is from the popular French Way route).   (Getty Images/sollafune)

On Easter Sunday 2015, an Arizona woman disappeared as she walked a famed pilgrimage route in Spain; two years later, her killer has been found guilty. Miguel Angel Munoz was on Wednesday convicted in the murder of Denise Pikka Thiem. The 41-year-old had quit her job working in PetSmart's corporate headquarters in Phoenix to traverse the St. James Way, also known as the Camino de Santiago; she set off on what was to be a 90-day solo voyage from Pamplona in March, the Arizona Republic reported at the time. Prosecutors alleged Munoz had put up a marker designed to confuse pilgrims and reroute them toward his small farm in Asturias near the trail, which the AP reports leads to a cathedral believed to house the remains of St. James the Apostle.

The New York Times reports that while Munoz was also found guilty of robbing Thiem of $1,100, he provided no information as to motive. Munoz's defense tried to make the case he was suffering from severe psychiatric issues at the time, reports Reuters. He had been arrested five months after Thiem vanished on April 5, and her body was found partly buried on his property. Reuters cites a summary of the jury's decision that finds Munoz "ambushed" Thiem, giving her no opportunity to defend herself. Per the coroner's report, cause of death was serious brain injuries caused by repeated beatings. A judge will issue a sentence in the coming days; prosecutors want 27 years for the murder. (Read about another tragic hiking tale, this time out of North Carolina.)

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