Dragging Death Suspect Appeared in Photo Found Near Body; Victim Remains Unidentified

Sandi Berg placed white flowers at a makeshift memorial where the victim of a gruesome dragging death had been found, grateful that a suspect was arrested after his photo was found at the crime scene but wondering who the victim was.

"Hopefully he will give the name of the girl so that her family can be contacted and this can be put to rest," Berg said Wednesday, hours after police announced the arrest. "She deserves peace."

Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, 36, was being held without bail on a first-degree murder charge at the Douglas County jail.

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The woman, whose strangled and battered body was found Monday in a subdivision about 20 miles south of Denver, had still not been identified Thursday. Preliminary autopsy results indicated she died of asphyxiation and head injuries from the dragging, the coroner's office said. Sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Castellano declined to comment on the investigation Thursday.

Nancy Foley, who lives near the house where the body was found, said the woman was found with an orange tow rope around her neck and that her face was unrecognizable. Investigators said she had been dragged for at least a mile.

Investigators did not say how or why the photo had been left near the body.

The photo shows Rubi-Nava with his right arm casually draped on a woman's shoulder. Sheriff Dave Weaver said investigators had not determined whether the woman in the photo was the victim.

The photo had been made public after the body was found, and investigators said it prompted a flood of calls. Weaver said tips from the public had led to the arrest, but he did not elaborate.

He refused to take questions after reading a six-paragraph statement at a news conference. The sheriff's department did not respond to repeated requests by phone and in writing for more information.

At a court appearance Wednesday afternoon, Rubi-Nava listened impassively through a translator as District Judge Paul A. King formally told him the charge he faces.

King sealed the arrest warrant affidavit, which outlines the preliminary allegations against Rubi-Nava, at the request of public defender Kathleen McGuire. King said he would consider McGuire's request for a gag order.

Rubi-Nava said nothing during the 30-minute hearing. He looked around the courtroom but made no sign of recognizing anyone.

Another court hearing was scheduled for Monday.

Weaver said Rubi-Nava lived in Glendale, a small bedroom community surrounded by Denver, and was taken into custody Tuesday night in Douglas County.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said agents believe Rubi-Nava is an illegal immigrant from Mexico and were trying to confirm his identity.

Deputies and residents had described a grisly trail of blood more than a mile long leading from Interstate 25 to the woman's body. It was found near a driveway on a paved street of large ranch-style homes, some on spacious lots carpeted with tall prairie grass.

On Wednesday, highway crews were spreading a coat of fresh tar over the roads to cover the remnants of the blood. But Berg, a 25-year resident of the subdivision, said the blood still showed through in places.