A 27-year-old married farmer who is the son of an Orthodox priest has allegedly confessed to the heinous murder of 59-year-old American scientist Suzanne Eaton on the island of Crete.
Eaton’s tortured body was found in a Nazi-era bunker on the picturesque island this month, and it appears she did not know her alleged killer.
The man, a father of two, confessed to first hitting Eaton with his car to immobilize her and then stuffing her in the trunk of his car before dragging her into the bunker where he raped and killed her–or perhaps killed her and then raped her—according to General Regional Police Director of Crete Constantine Lagoudakis at a press conference Tuesday.
The man, whose name cannot be released in accordance with Greek privacy laws, was said to be identified after surveillance footage placed his car near the bunker shortly after Eaton disappeared.
As of Tuesday, he had not yet been charged with Eaton’s murder pending DNA results. Nearly a dozen islanders were brought in for questioning and tested for a DNA match, but the farmer is the only person who has so far been remanded to custody.
Eaton, who held a black belt in tae kwon do, lived and worked in Germany with her Israel-born husband and two sons. She was in Crete attending a scientific conference at the Orthodox Academy in the port city of Chania when she disappeared while out jogging on July 2.
Her body was found a week later deep inside the bunker about 7 miles from where she was staying. On Tuesday, Chania Chief of Police George Lympinakis said her time of death was July 2, the day she disappeared.
Police say Eaton’s mouth and nose were blocked when she was found and she likely died of suffocation, but that she also suffered multiple stab wounds on her body in addition to injuries suffered from being hit by the car.
Police say they cannot yet ascertain whether she was killed inside the bunker or if she was killed after being hit by the car before the suspect carried out the rape, perhaps on her dead body. Police say forensic evidence shows the rape was carried out inside the bunker, but they have not said if she was dead or alive at the time.
Police say they are searching abandoned out-buildings and farmhouses in the area to look for evidence that she may have been held and tortured after being hit by the car and before being killed. They say it is likely Eaton was dropped into the bunker through an air vent not far from where her body was found and that the suspect crawled through the bunker opening to where her body was to carry out the rape.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Greek state coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis said that “something complicated happened” during the American’s final hours and that her death was “not immediate.” He said Eaton clearly fought for her life and that the knife wounds she suffered were largely defensive. “There was duration involved in her demise,” he said.
The farmer had previously posted detailed photos of his exploration of the abandoned bunker where Eaton was found, which was dug into natural underground caves by the Nazis during World War II. He also posted photos of a collection of Nazi paraphernalia that he likely found inside the caves, Eleni Papathanassiou, a spokeswoman for Crete’s police department said.
The farmer had been under police watch for an unrelated crime, Papathanassiou said, and was well known in the area. Papathanassiou would not confirm if the previous crime was sexual in nature.
Greek authorities have now finished the forensic examination of Eaton’s body, which will be repatriated to the United States and buried.