AMERICAN FORK — A Utah man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her 3-year-old son may have been distraught in the days before her disappearance because she was pregnant, courtroom testimony revealed Monday.
On a September Monday three years ago, Christopher Richard Poulson came to the Orem Carraba's Italian Grill where Emily Quijano Almiron worked and told her they couldn't have a baby at the time, urging her to get an abortion, according to a written statement from her coworker that was read aloud in 4th District Court.
"Chris, I'm not getting an abortion. The damage is already done," the coworker, also a friend of Almiron's, recalled her saying. "She seemed embarrassed that the man she loved would act that way," the statement continued.
Almiron did not return to work after that day, even though her boss told investigators she had called in the past when she had to miss a shift, testified Joshua Adams, a former Orem detective on the case and the current police chief in Lindon. Almiron also confided in a second friend she may be pregnant, according to another statement the woman provided to Orem police.
Poulson, 28, of Smithfield, is charged with murdering the young mother and her 3-year-old son, then wrapping them in sheets and burying them, though bodies of the mother and toddler have never been recovered. He was arrested in Hawaii in October, where prosecutors say he moved after FBI investigators spoke to him about the case.
Investigators did not at first consider Poulson a person of interest, but became suspicious when they believed he began lying and giving deceptive answers in conversations with police, Adams said Monday, the first day of a preliminary hearing in the case.
Poulson broke up with Almiron Sept. 8, 2015, and she was reported missing on Sept. 12, police said. He told officers he ended the relationship after finding a meth pipe of Almiron's for the fourth time.
"For him, that was the final straw," Adams said.
Poulson reported giving his ex-girlfriend her half of the rent money, $400, when she collected some of her things after they broke up, Adams said, telling the officer he never spoke to her again.
But prosecutors say he packed some of her belongings in her red Toyota Prius and drove it to St. George. The car was found in a corner of a condominium parking lot in April 2016 with its windows open, cobwebs on the tires and a diaper bag, sippy cup and other items in the back seat, Adams said.
Poulson wore glasses, close-cropped hair and dark blue Utah County Jail attire in court Monday, sitting very still as he watched the testimony. Before his arrest, he worked at Chuck-A-Rama and was known for riding a long board.
A week or two before her daughter's disappearance, Brenda Marsh believed it was "very significant" when her daughter, who didn't typically care for hugs, embraced her for a long time on Marsh's porch. It was the last time the mother saw her, Marsh testified Monday.
She said her daughter loved to sing and play her Fender Stratocaster, but also made friends who did drugs and dated a man Marsh suspected had substance-abuse issues. Marsh once thought her daughter had possibly done drugs when the areas under her eyes darkened and she lost weight. But at the time of her disappearance, "she was happy, she was healthy," Marsh said.
According to charges, investigators traced Poulson's steps by tracking his cell phone, finding he went to dumpsters in two different areas in Orem on Sept. 9, 2015 before buying a shovel, work gloves, an energy drink and Camel Crush cigarettes at a Springville Wal-Mart. A record provided by the store includes a birth date for the cigarette purchase that matches Poulson's, testified Brian Kimball, a Provo-based FBI special agent.
Geolocation data also showed Poulson traveled to St. George two days later, then returned to Orem under an assumed name using a shuttle service, court records state.
On Sept. 12, 2015, Almiron's ex-husband reported her missing, days after she had texted him and told him not to pick up their son Gabriel because "Chris broke up with me and I need my baby." After texting her on the 10th, he never received a response, according to a forensic analysis of the text conversation.
Marsh also testified she had received text messages from her daughter cancelling regular babysitting appointments that week.
Investigators say Poulson sold his 2000 Ford Mustang soon after Almiron disappeared. When detectives tracked down the car, a police cadaver dog indicated on the trunk area, at one point jumping in the trunk, Adams said.
Outside the courtroom, his grandfather Robert Poulson said "it's just a tough time for his family." Other family members and Poulson's defense attorney Deborah Hill declined comment.
The hearing is scheduled to continue later this week. Following the hearing, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence for Poulson to stand trial on two counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and two more counts of abuse or desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony.