Police Charge Suspect in US Scientist's Slaying in Crete - NBC4 Washington
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Police Charge Suspect in US Scientist's Slaying in Crete

Suzanne Eaton, a molecular biologist, was attending a conference near the port of Chania and was last seen on July 2, when her relatives said they believed she had gone for a hike

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    This undated photo provided by her family shows Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist.

    A 27-year-old man was charged with murder and rape Tuesday in the killing of an American scientist who disappeared on the Greek island of Crete and whose body was found in a tunnel formerly used as a storage site during World War II.

    Crete police said a Greek man from the island confessed to the "violent criminal act," telling investigators he struck Suzanne Eaton with his car and abducted her "motivated by the intention to commit sexual assault," Crete police spokeswoman Eleni Papathanasiou said.

    Eaton, 59, went missing on July 2 while attending a scientific conference in Crete. Relatives said she had gone for a hike. Her body was found six days later after an extensive search.

    The suspect remains in police custody and will appear in court before being placed in pre-trial detention, court officials said. He has not been publicly named in accordance with Greek law.

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    Papathanasiou said a coroner determined Eaton had "many broken ribs, and facial bones, and multiple injuries to both hands" and died from asphyxiation on the day of her disappearance.

    The suspect said he hit Eaton twice to stop her, the police spokeswoman said.

    "According to his claims, he placed the victim, unconscious, in the trunk of his car and transferred her to a ventilation drain in the wartime storage (tunnel), where after raping her, abandoned her there."

    Crete Police chief Lt. Gen. Constantine Lagoudakis told reporters the investigation had been helped by video footage from closed-circuit cameras and questioning people in the area.

    "A particularly important element of our investigation was the discovery of recent tire tracks near the (tunnel). This, in conjunction with the position of the body when it was found, suggested that it had been transferred to the site," Lagoudakis said.

    Eaton, from Armonk, New York, was based in Dresden, Germany, where she worked at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.

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    Police said she was visiting the island for a fourth time.