Robert Fabian, 28, was convicted Tuesday of murder and evidence tampering in the death of 21-year-old Zuzu Verk, who was attending Sul Ross State University in the West Texas town of Alpine -- about 200 miles southeast of El Paso -- at the time of her disappearance.
Fabian told police he got into a heated argument with Verk the night before she disappeared, but claimed she left his apartment at around 2 a.m. However, neighbors reported hearing arguing and loud noises hours later.
Verk's remains were found wrapped in plastic sheets the following February in a remote shallow grave near Alpine. She was identified through dental records.
A friend of Fabian, Chris Estrada, also was arrested after cellphone and credit card records linked him to the purchase of the plastic sheets used to wrap Verk's body. According to KMID, Estrada told investigators he had driven Fabian to a local Dollar General store and had let Fabian use his credit card to make the purchase. During Fabian's trial, Estrada testified that Fabian had asked him for help moving Verk's body. Estrada said he declined Fabian's request but told Fabian he would not turn him in.
Estrada has entered a plea of no contest to tampering with evidence. A sentence for him is still pending.
KMID reported that during the trial, a cellmate of Fabian's testified that the defendant told him Verk had found out about a sexual relationship between Fabian and Estrada and had threatened to expose it. The cellmate, Roy Roman, said Fabian told him that he had grabbed Verk's neck and "didn’t know if he broke her neck or choked her out." According to Roman, he would hear Fabian cry in the cell at night and say: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you."
A judge previously ordered the trial moved from Brewster County in West Texas to in Caldwell County, south of Austin, citing pretrial publicity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.