A jury in the northern city of León has found Miguel Ángel Muñoz guilty of the murder of Denise Pikka Thiem two years ago. She was last seen alive during her trip of a lifetime hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain
On Wednesday, eight out of nine jury members found Muñoz guilty of “brutally beaten the pilgrim with a stick causing her death before proceeding to bury her body”.
41 year old Muñoz confessed to murdering Thiem to the police before leading them to the where he buried her.
Thiem watched a Martin Sheen movie about the pilgrimage which made her take the trip alone to Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain
In April 2015, US Senator John McCain asked Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to speed up the investigation and offered help from the FBI, giving the case a high political profile.
Muñoz changed $1,000 in cash at a local bank shortly after Thiem’s disappearance which made him a suspect
In September 2015, Muñoz tried to runaway from his home but was arrested. He later showed the police where he had buried Thiem body, she was naked and missing her hands, which were never found.
Last month, the chief inspector in charge of the search operation told the court that if Miguel Ángel Muñoz had not shown them where the body was, they would probably never have found her.
The examining judge was told by Muñoz that after getting lost along the pilgrimage stage from Astorga to El Ganso, Thiem arrived at his home near the village of Castrillo de los Polvozares.
He said: “I offered to show her the way, but she got nervous and I hit her on the head with a stick. I don’t know why.”
Muñoz’s lawyer said that his client denied sexual assaulting Thiem. He initially buried her on his land before carrying her almost two miles to an undergrowth in an area frequented by wild boars.
Deliberate arrows change:
Police believe that Muñoz may have deliberately changed the yellow signs marking the pilgrimage route to lead victims to his home.
A German woman was assaulted in 2014 by a masked man in the area, she followed arrows that led her off the right path. Also, a Chinese woman stated that she was hit by a man with a stick in a place close to Muñoz’s home, according to police.
Muñoz’ sentencing will be in the next few days. The prosecutors asked for a 25-year sentence for murder and theft.