SAVANNAH, Georgia – A pregnant tourist who was abducted and killed while jogging in Puerto Rico was a fearless explorer of the islands she visited during work trips with her yacht-captain fiance, a friend said.
Sara Kuszak spent weeks at a time at sea, preparing meals as the crew chef while her fiance, Cheshire McIntosh, piloted private yachts for their wealthy owners. Friends say the couple that planned to marry in March were a perfect match — attractive, adventurous and charismatic.
"A lot of these trips were to islands and she would run through some kind of crazy neighborhoods and tell stories about dogs chasing her," said John Everette, a friend of the couple, who lived in Savannah. "She was always somebody who didn't have a lot of fear in her."
Now the couple's friends and families are trying to make sense of why she was grabbed, stuffed into a trunk, raped and killed in the coastal town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. When police found her body with her throat slashed Wednesday, she was five months pregnant.
"That's a line even the most debased person usually just doesn't cross," Everette said Thursday. "It's a particular shame it would happen to her. Everybody has faults, but they were really hard to find with her."
Eliezer Marquez, 36, was charged in court Thursday with kidnapping, rape and first-degree murder in Kuszak's death. Police in Fajardo said he confessed to killing Kuszak after they arrested him Wednesday with bloodstains on his shirt and pants.
The killing was carried out in the same fashion as murders that Marquez's mother, Ines Navedo, was convicted of committing in 1992. She slit the throats of two young siblings aged 2 and 3.
"He told me he felt bad because he didn't know (Kuszak) was pregnant," said police officer Arsenio Rodriguez. "He was crying and telling me he was sorry because he has a daughter and knew he had made a big mistake."
Police said Marquez told them he spotted Kuszak jogging alone Wednesday, stopped his car and opened the trunk as he waited for her to pass. He then grabbed her and forced her into the trunk.
Kuszak used her cell phone to make a desperate call for help from the trunk of her kidnapper's car Wednesday, about an hour before she was found dead. The FBI then used the signal from the phone to help locate the suspect.
Marquez, who could face up to life in prison, walked into court Thursday with his head down for a closed hearing in which the charges against him were announced. He did not enter a plea and does not have a lawyer yet.
"Justice is being done for this victim," prosecutor Francisco Sanchez said outside court. "In this case, there will be no negotiation. He will face the full consequences."
Kuszak moved across the country from San Francisco about five years ago to live with McIntosh on the Georgia coast. Everette said the couple met in the South Pacific, where McIntosh was working on a boat and Kuszak was vacationing with friends.
She had arrived in Puerto Rico to meet up with McIntosh the day before she was killed. Kuszak's mother, Joan Lang of San Jose, Calif., told ABC News her daughter and McIntosh planned to sail together to the Virgin Islands for their wedding March 22. Lang did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Everette, a friend of McIntosh's since high school, got to know Kuszak last summer when he joined their crew as a deckhand for a three-week trip from the Virgin Islands to Rhode Island. When she wasn't preparing meals of fresh fish caught over the side of the 66-foot yacht, Everette said, Kuszak would try to cheer up anyone who might seem glum.