An Army soldier stationed in Alaska has been accused of murdering his newlywed wife and hiding her body in a storm drain. Zarrius Hildabrand, 21, has been charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the killing of his spouse, Saria Hildabrand, also 21. The couple lived in an apartment in Anchorage. Hildabrand reported his wife missing on August 7th, but her body was discovered with a gunshot wound to the left temple on August 10th. Prior to her body being found, Hildabrand had posted desperate messages on Facebook about his wife's disappearance and even helped her mother search for her. Saria's mother, Meredith Barney, expressed her disbelief that Hildabrand could deceive her and pretend to be a concerned husband while knowing that her daughter was already dead.
According to an incident report obtained by Law & Crime, Hildabrand reported his wife missing on Monday and informed the police that he and Saria had returned home at around 2 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 6, after celebrating his birthday downtown with friends. A neighbor later reported hearing a gunshot at approximately 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, as reported by KTUU. Hildabrand stated that Saria, who worked with the Alaska National Guard, left between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Aug. 6 for her second job at a local restaurant. He claimed that they both chose to walk to work as they were hungover and not feeling well enough to drive. The suspect also mentioned that Saria left her phone in the apartment but took her purse and wallet.
But in a separate interview, one of the couple’s friends told police that Saria mentioned she did not plan to work Aug. 6, the Anchorage Daily News said. Hildabrand told police he “vegetated” at home while he believed his wife was at work, though he later backtracked and said he ran a few errands. Hildabrand claimed he did not realize his wife was missing until he went to pick her up from work at 7 p.m. and learned she never arrived. “Zarrius said that he had been searching for Saria ever since,” the complaint said. “Zarrius said that he had been to every friend’s house, called Saria’s parents, contacted all the hospitals, and jail.” He finally contacted police 36 hours after Saria was last seen and told cops he was hoping he would track down his wife and “find [her disappearance] was a misunderstanding,” the document added. After Saria was reported missing, her co-workers told officers that they received a text from her number at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, saying she was calling off work.
Hildabrand denied sending the message and when police interviewed him at the couple's apartment, they noticed two pistols on the kitchen table. One of the guns was fully loaded, while the other was missing a single bullet. The detective also observed that the apartment's only bed did not have a sheet on it, but instead was covered by a mattress pad with a package of new sheets nearby. Hildabrand refused to allow the police to lift the bed and examine it, claiming that there were "embarrassing" items and "stuff used for sex" underneath. A few days later, police discovered that Hildabrand had purchased a jar of marinara sauce, a set of sheets that matched the brand found at the apartment, a mattress cover, hydrogen peroxide, and an empty spray bottle on August 6th. The purpose of the pasta sauce remains unclear.
The suspect in the case purchased a 96-gallon garbage can from a nearby Lowes. Police found a mop and mop bucket in the apartment that matched the ones sold on the same aisle as the can. When detectives searched the apartment with a warrant, they discovered that the mattress was soaked with human blood. The blood had seeped through onto the carpet and into the wood frame. The bathtub and some of the floors also had evidence of blood, indicating possible cleanup attempts. The police eventually found the bloody garbage can on a trail near the couple's apartment. A drone search later uncovered the remains of Saria, the suspect's wife, hidden in a storm drain. The couple had met at basic training and got married in December 2022. Saria had moved from Utah to Alaska to be with her new husband. A neighbor expressed shock at the turn of events, as there had been no indications that something was wrong. The suspect, Hildabrand, appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and was appointed a public defender. He is currently held on a $500,000 bond.
Barney spoke at the arraignment, describing her son-in-law's actions as "terrifying." The young woman's family released a statement on Facebook, expressing their shock at the tragedy. They stated, "Saria Barney was an incredible young woman. No one could have anticipated that something like this would happen to her." The GoFundMe campaign, initially created to support the search for Saria, is now being redirected to cover funeral expenses and bring her remains back to Utah. As of Sunday morning, the fundraiser had raised nearly $18,000 towards its $20,000 goal. The Anchorage Police Department did not respond to The Post's request for comment on Hildabrand's arrest.