Slain tourist called fiance from car trunk
SAVANNAH, Georgia - A pregnant tourist who was abducted and killed while jogging in Puerto Rico told her fiance "she was going to die" in a frantic cell phone call from the trunk of her abductor's car, the victim's mother said Friday.
Sara Kuszak, 36, was found dead with her throat slashed Wednesday. Her mother, Joan Lang, said her final call to fiance Cheshire McIntosh offered little hope of escape.
"She talked to Cheshire and she told him she knew she was going to die," Lang said by phone from her home in San Jose, Calif. "She knew she didn't have a chance with this man. You can just imagine the agony they were both going through, to say goodbye to each other."
McIntosh declined an interview request through Thelma Rivera, an attorney in Puerto Rico who was helping him translate documents and complete funeral arrangements. McIntosh instead released a statement requesting privacy and time to grieve.
“I am very distraught by the sudden and unforeseen passing of our lovely Sara Kuszak,” McIntosh said. “Sara was an exceptional person and we were looking forward with great joy to the birth of our child.”
He also praised police in Puerto Rico and the FBI for acting swiftly to find his fiance.
“Their immediate response, while it was not enough to bring us Sara back home safely, did prevent us from a possibly long and tortured wait,” McIntosh said.
A friend said Kuszak, who moved to Savannah from San Francisco five years ago to live with McIntosh, was a fearless explorer of the islands she visited during work trips with her yacht-captain fiance.
She spent weeks at a time at sea, preparing meals as the crew chef while McIntosh, piloted private yachts for their wealthy owners. Friends say the couple that planned to marry in March were a perfect match — attractive, adventurous and charismatic.
"A lot of these trips were to islands and she would run through some kind of crazy neighborhoods and tell stories about dogs chasing her," said John Everette, a friend of the couple, who lived in Savannah. "She was always somebody who didn't have a lot of fear in her."
5 months pregnant
Now the couple's friends and families are trying to make sense of why she was grabbed, stuffed into a trunk, raped and killed in the coastal town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. She was five months pregnant when she was slain.
"That's a line even the most debased person usually just doesn't cross," Everette said Thursday. "It's a particular shame it would happen to her. Everybody has faults, but they were really hard to find with her."
Eliezer Marquez, 36, was charged in court Thursday with kidnapping, rape and first-degree murder in Kuszak's death. Police in Fajardo said he confessed to killing Kuszak after they arrested him Wednesday with bloodstains on his shirt and pants.
The killing was carried out in the same fashion as murders that Marquez's mother, Ines Navedo, was convicted of committing in 1992. She slit the throats of two young siblings aged 2 and 3.
"He told me he felt bad because he didn't know (Kuszak) was pregnant," said police officer Arsenio Rodriguez. "He was crying and telling me he was sorry because he has a daughter and knew he had made a big mistake."
Police said Marquez told them he spotted Kuszak jogging alone Wednesday, stopped his car and opened the trunk as he waited for her to pass. He then grabbed her and forced her into the trunk.
Found dead hour after phone call
Kuszak used her cell phone to make a desperate call for help from the trunk of her kidnapper's car Wednesday, about an hour before she was found dead by police. The FBI then used the signal from the phone to help locate the suspect.
Marquez, who could face up to life in prison, walked into court Thursday with his head down for a closed hearing in which the charges against him were announced. He did not enter a plea and does not have a lawyer yet.
"Justice is being done for this victim," prosecutor Francisco Sanchez said outside court. "In this case, there will be no negotiation. He will face the full consequences."
Kuszak moved across the country from San Francisco about five years ago to live with McIntosh on the Georgia coast. Everette said the couple met in the South Pacific, where McIntosh was working on a boat and Kuszak was vacationing with friends.
She had arrived in Puerto Rico to meet up with McIntosh the day before she was killed. Kuszak's mother said she and McIntosh planned to sail together to the Virgin Islands to be married between March 15 and 22.
"The McIntosh family just worshipped Sara," Lang said. "She's always been an adventurous spirit and very smart woman. She had all her ducks in a row."
Everette, a friend of McIntosh's since high school, got to know Kuszak last summer when he joined their crew as a deckhand for a three-week trip from the Virgin Islands to Rhode Island. When she wasn't preparing meals of fresh fish caught over the side of the 66-foot yacht, Everette said, Kuszak would try to cheer up anyone who might seem glum.