[This story has been updated with information from the criminal charges and Friday’s court hearing.]
Anchorage police arrested the husband of a 21-year-old woman missing since Sunday and charged him with her murder after discovering her body more than four days later.
Saria Barney Hildabrand was found dead Thursday evening near the Anchorage apartment the two shared, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
Someone in the area reported hearing a gunshot around 2:45 a.m. Sunday, but nothing appeared suspicious when officers arrived, according to a sworn complaint filed with an arrest warrant by Anchorage police detective Troy Clark. Police on Thursday located Saria Hildabrand’s body in a concealed location along a trail near the apartment complex, the complaint said.
Her husband, Zarrius Hildabrand, 21, was taken into custody and remanded at the Anchorage jail on charges of first- and second-degree murder as well as tampering with evidence, the Anchorage Police Department said Friday. At the time of his arrest, Hildabrand was a soldier with the U.S. Army in Anchorage.
The first-degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison.
Saria Hildabrand, a combat medic with the Alaska National Guard who worked at a Midtown restaurant, was last seen on Sunday in the area of the couple’s apartment complex northeast of the Seward Highway and Dowling Road. She wasn’t reported missing until Monday, police said.
Police said they had been investigating her disappearance since then. Friends and family circulated a missing poster. Scores of volunteers searched this week, 60 or 70 on Tuesday alone, combing the path between her home at the Mockingbird Drive and Alpenhorn Avenue complex and her work, as well as the dog park at University Lake she frequented.
Zarrius Hildabrand, a soldier based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, told a different story than the one that emerged through the investigation, according to the criminal complaint.
He several times told officers that his wife left between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday to walk to work about a mile from their apartment, Clark wrote.
On Saturday night, Hildabrand told police, the couple had been out drinking with friends to celebrate his birthday and they all arrived back at Mockingbird Drive early Sunday. Later Sunday morning, he and his wife were hungover and didn’t feel up to driving, Hildabrand said, according to the complaint. Interviewed separately, however, a friend with them Saturday night said Saria told her she did not plan to work Sunday.
Hildabrand said during a police interview Monday evening that his wife forgot to take her phone when she left for work, though she did take her purse and wallet, according to the complaint. Employees at her workplace received a text from her phone at 10:45 a.m. Sunday saying she was calling off work, the complaint said. A coworker responded, saying Hildabrand needed to check in with her boss. She did not call, the complaint said. Her husband denied sending the text.
Zarrius Hildabrand told police he didn’t realize his wife was missing until he went to pick her up at work Sunday night.
Hildabrand originally told police he “vegetated” the day his wife went missing, but later said he ran errands, according to the complaint. He said he didn’t worry until 10 p.m. that night, which is when he said he started looking for her. He told police he didn’t report her missing until Monday afternoon “because he thought he might find his wife and find it was a misunderstanding,” Clark wrote.
Hildabrand refused to let police search the bed in the apartment after officers saw what appeared to be a missing sheet and a new sheet set on the kitchen table, according to the complaint. On Tuesday, police determined that Hildabrand went to the Fred Meyer in Midtown three separate times and bought the sheets found on the table, a mattress cover, hydrogen peroxide and other items, it said.
They served a search warrant on Wednesday and found the mattress soaked in blood, Clark wrote. Officers also recovered two handguns, one missing a bullet from the magazine, the complaint said.
On Thursday, detectives tracked Hildabrand’s phone to a Lowe’s store where they learned he bought a large wheeled garbage can, according to the complaint. A detective spotted a similar can in the back of a landscaping truck north of the complex, in the area of a trail, and “took custody” of it, the document said.
An officer using a drone spotted evidence leading to the discovery of Hildebrand’s body, the complaint said.
It wasn’t immediately clear when or where Zarrius Hildabrand was arrested before being taken to the Anchorage jail. A judge set his bail at $500,000 and appointed a public defender during Hildabrand’s first court hearing Friday afternoon.
Saria Hildabrand’s mother, Meredith Barney, gave a statement during the Friday arraignment, calling her son-in-law’s actions this week “terrifying.” Barney flew up to Alaska on Tuesday after Zarrius Hildabrand called her the previous night with the news that Saria was missing.
“He walked around for hours with me searching for my daughter knowing that she was dead,” Barney said. “He lied to me multiple times, and tried to play it off like he was a concerned husband.”
Zarrius Hildabrand is a cannon crew member assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 11th Airborne Division, according to U.S. Army Alaska. He joined the Army in September 2021 and arrived in Alaska in April 2022.
Saria Hildabrand was assigned to the Alaska Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, according to Guard spokesman Alan Brown. She joined in April 2023.
Before she moved to Alaska this year, Saria Hildabrand served in the Utah National Guard as a field artillery fire finder radar operator, Brown said. She originally enlisted there in May 2021.
In interviews Friday, friends and family described Saria Hildabrand as warm, loyal and hardworking, with a strong sense of purpose and close ties with her family.
Kylee Clark became friends with her while they were both working at a sushi restaurant in Utah, before Hildabrand moved to Alaska. “She worked her butt off,” Clark said. “If she was invited to anything, she would be there no matter what.” Hildabrand was adventurous and seemed excited about her move to Alaska, especially the chance to see the northern lights, Clark said.
Zarrius and Saria Hildabrand met during basic training last summer and were married in December, according to Saria’s mother. Clark said her understanding was that the couple wanted to be stationed together, adding: “They seemed really happy.”
Friends and family interviewed for this article said that the couple’s relationship from the outside seemed normal. It wasn’t until this week that anything seemed off, Saria’s aunt Brittany Monson said.
To Clark, what stood out to her was the report from Zarrius Hildabrand that Saria had left her phone at home. “The story just didn’t make sense,” Clark said. “She never puts her phone down. She’s 21, that thing is glued to her hand.”
After Saria Hildabrand’s disappearance, family, friends and colleagues distributed flyers, posted social media alerts and launched search efforts. About 40 members of her Guard unit helped look for her on Thursday, Guard spokesman Brown said. “She’s on our team. We’re going to do everything we can to try to locate her,” he said.
Brown read aloud a statement the Guard issued Friday morning: “The entire Alaska National Guard team is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Specialist Saria Hildabrand. Our most sincere condolences go out to her family and friends in the wake of this terrible tragedy.”
Her family initially set up a Gofundme to help cover expenses in their search, and said Friday that funds would be used to offset the cost of transporting her body back to Utah.
Her family in a statement Saturday thanked everyone involved in the search and investigation. They described the loss of “a genuine, caring woman” who was “independent, courageous, and brave,” asked for privacy in the coming days as they processed their grief.
A remembrance for Saria Hildabrand is planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday at University Lake Dog Park.