Murder suspect pleads not guilty - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Murder suspect pleads not guilty

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UPDATE 1/29:

ELLENSBURG, WA - A 24-year-old man has pleaded not guilty in the shooting death of a woman whose body was found in the Yakima River Canyon.
  
Christopher Almaral pleaded not guilty on Monday to a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Stephanie Curtis. Kittitas County Sheriff Office investigators say the 34-year-old Curtis had been found dead Jan. 7 with two gunshot wounds.
  
A probable cause statement says detectives tied alleged gang activity by Almaral to Curtis' death.
  
Almaral remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

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1-19-18 UPDATE:

KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - The murder investigation of a woman now known to be Stephanie Curtis has ended with a blunt confession from her killer.

On January 7, Curtis's body was found on the shoulder of Canyon Road, just south of Ellensburg. According to the coroner, she died after being shot twice - once in the chest, and once in the head.

Detectives found out that Curtis had been at the Legends Casino in Toppenish, where surveillance video showed her meeting up with two men, who we now know are Pedro Garcia and Christopher Almaral.

Police spoke with Garcia first, who told them that Curtis approached them in the casino, but was hesitant and wouldn't tell them her name. However, she left with them anyway. The three drove off together, heading towards Ellensburg where both men live.

They ended up at a home Garcia said belonged to friends of Almaral. After a while, Almaral said that he and Curtis, whose name the men still didn't know, were going to leave. Garcia didn't see Curtis again.

And that's where Almaral's confession comes in. He told Kittitas County Sheriff's Officers that he is in a gang, and that after he and Curtis left together, she tried to reach for a gun that he had strapped to his thigh, making him think he was being set up by a rival gang. He asked what she was doing, and when she went to reach for the gun again, he pulled it out and shot her twice.

Right now, Almaral is being held in the Kittitas County Jail on charges of first degree murder. His bail is set at $1 million.

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1-17-18 UPDATE: 

KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - Kittitas County Sheriff's Deputies have arrested 25-year-old Christopher Almaral of Ellensburg for the murder of Stephanie Curtis.

Police found Curtis' body on January 7th on SR 821 about four miles south of Ellensburg. Their investigation led them to several business in Yakima County where they got security footage with the victim and suspect the night before her body was found. The footage also showed the two leaving a Toppenish Casino in a car. 

Detectives found the car matching the surveillance video in Ellensburg and tracked it to a local home. They also found the car was the same one that had been seen leaving and re-entering Ellensburg between the time the victim and suspect left Toppenish and when Curtis' body was found. 

Deputies searched the suspects car and home and found a .38 caliber handgun and a sawed off shotgun. The handgun matches characteristics and bullets recovered from the victims's body. 

Deputies arrested Almaral without incident and booked him into the Kittitas County Jail pending charges for 1st degree murder.

Undersheriff Myers said in a press release, "This case was solved as a result of multiple law enforcement agencies, members of the public and business owners providing cooperation and assistance to the Sheriff's Detectives, with a special thanks to the Yakima Police Department for their support. It's both humbling and an honor to work with people this dedicated to the safety of our community."

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1-9-18 UPDATE:

KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - The Kittitas County Coroner says 34-year-old Stephanie Curtis died from multiple gunshot wounds. Kittitas County Sheriff's Deputies are investigating this death as a homicide.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.  

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1-9-18 UPDATE:

KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office has identified the body found along Canyon Road 4 miles south of Ellensburg.

The woman has been identified as 34-year-old Stephanie Curtis.

The investigation is continuing and cause of death is still pending final determination from the autopsy. Further information will be released as it becomes available.

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1-7-18 ORIGINAL STORY:

ELLENSBURG- The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office is investigating after a woman's body was found along Canyon Road near Ellensburg Sunday morning.

The Kittitas County Coroner Nick Henderson said he received the call around 10 a.m. for a body that had been found near milepost 20 on State Route 821. 

Deputies closed the road in both directions between milepost 0 near Selah and milepost 25 near Ellensburg. The road was later re-opened in the afternoon around 2:00 p.m. 

The name and age of the woman, along with the cause of death, has not been released yet. Henderson says an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. 

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