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Teenager accused of murdering sister appears in court

5:33 PM, Apr 12, 2010   |    comments
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Elizabeth Santaguida was found by her younger sister late Thursday night inside the family's Evergreen home on Hilltop Drive. While the official results of the autopsy have yet to come out, court records suggest the 24-year old, known to her friends as Libby, was possibly strangled.

Zach Santaguida made his initial court appearance on Monday morning. Prosecutors have until Thursday to formally charge the Evergreen High School dropout; when they do, they will likely charge him with first-degree murder.

"He's being held on no bond," Jefferson County District Attorney Pam Russell immediately following the brief hearing, said. Family members of the victim and defendant were present in court but declined a request to speak to the press.

"The whole premise, the whole thing really doesn't make much sense," Justin McKay, a former patient of Rik Santaguida, the victim's (and defendant's) father, said.

"I would never have speculated that something like this would happen," he said following the court hearing he attended as well.

Dr. Santaguida ran Evergreen Family Medicine for a number of years until it abruptly went out of business last year, according to an article in the Evergreen-based Canyon Courier.

A letter attached to the front door of the office back then said, "The past year has been very difficult due to personal, financial and health concerns. Thanks to all for being such wonderful patients and friends to us at Evergreen Family Medicine."

"I hadn't seen (Dr. Santaguida) since he closed his practice," McKay said. "But he was always the nicest guy ever. I mean he was probably one of the best doctors I had ever had."

According to an arrest affidavit released on Monday, investigators say the victim in the case had marks on her neck. A younger sister to both the defendant and victim told investigators, "that she new this was a 'murder' and believed her sister was strangled because she saw "ligature marks" around her neck."

That sister was the first to call 911 on Thursday night to report that her sister "was not breathing." The victim's mother, also a doctor, tried CPR.

When investigators initially interviewed Zach Santaguida he said he considered himself "a shut in."

"He claimed that he was home the entire day," read the affidavit, "however slept for most of it, only waking up for about 30 minutes at a time."

At first he told them that "he did not hear anything unusual." At one time, when the family was being interviewed by investigators "Zachariah Santaguida sat next to her and began to cut his fingernails with fingernail clippers."

Later on, according to investigators, he told them things that prompted them to find probable cause to arrest him. That portion of the affidavit has been blacked out by prosecutors.

Investigators also say the home was "in complete disarray. There was clutter and trash throughout," according to the affidavit.

Santaguida faces life in prison if found guilty of the first-degree murder of his sister.

If you would like to comment on this story directly to the author contact him at chris.vanderveen@9news.com.

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