A Greek man has been detained for questioning in the slaying of an American scientist on the island of Crete, police said Monday.
Authorities said the 27-year-old man detained Monday was one of 10 people interviewed over the weekend for the investigation of Suzanne Eaton’s slaying. He was not named in accordance with Greek law.
Eaton, a 59-year-old molecular biologist, was attending a conference on Crete when she went missing on July 2. Her body was found six days later in a tunnel used as a storage site during World War II. Police say she had been raped.
The suspect said in his confession that he had seen Eaton running, and “with sexual assault as a probable motive, hit her twice with his car in order to immobilize her,” Crete’s Chief of Police Konstantinos Lagoudakis said at a press conference Tuesday.
The suspect raped her and dumped her body into the bunker, covering the opening of the bunker’s air shaft with a piece of wood to hide it, Crete Police’s head of press Eleni Papathanassiou told CNN.
It is not clear if Eaton was still alive when she was raped, she said.
Wheel tracks lead officers to the suspect, police said, explaining that they had linked tracks found near the bunker to his car, which, they say, he cleaned after the attack on Eaton.
During preliminary questioning, the suspect denied having been near the bunker for a month, which raised suspicions, Lagoudakis said.
Signals from the suspect’s phone also placed him near the crime scene on the day of the attack, the police chief said.
Police say the suspect is a married father of two who owns farmland near the crime scene. They have not named him.
The suspect said he had never met Eaton but had seen her running before, police said.
Eaton was from New York state but had been living and working in Germany at the Max Planck Institute in eastern city of Dresden. In messages on the Institute’s website, her brother, Rob Eaton, described his sister as kind and intelligent.
“I have lost a sister. The world has lost more than it will ever know,” he wrote. “I will miss our animated conversations. I would always walk away with a head full of new ideas and enthusiasm. Most of all I will miss the kindest, wisest person I will probably ever know.”
A mother-of-two, she usually ran for 30 minutes every day, according to the “Searching for Suzanne” Facebook page set up when she went missing.
‘A truly wonderful person’
Tributes from Eaton’s relatives — including her mother, son and siblings — were released by Eaton’s employer, the Max Planck Institute at Dresden University in Germany.
Eaton was the wife of British scientist Tony Hyman and mother of two sons, according to the institute.
Eaton’s sister described her as an “accomplished woman” of “insatiable curiosity,” and praised her achievements.
“She took great pleasure in preparing exquisite meals and had an exotic fashion sense. She loved perfume. She taught and practiced Tae Kwon Do as a second-degree black belt. She finished crossword puzzles way too quickly, played concertos, and read extensively. She fit Jane Austen’s strictest description of an ‘accomplished woman’ while maintaining a natural humility and ‘insatiable curiosity’,” her sister wrote.
Her sister added that Eaton would often worry about not giving her family enough time as well as devoting herself to science.
She continued, “But anyone who read of her accomplishments in the field of molecular and developmental biology, or who witnessed her joy in tutoring, comforting, and inspiring her children, or sharing with, and loving her husband, would not have suspected. With a deep sensitivity and compassion, she somehow made us all a priority.”
In a statement, the Max Planck Institute said Eaton was “an outstanding and inspiring scientist, a loving spouse and mother, an athlete as well as a truly wonderful person beloved to us all.”
The details surrounding Eaton’s death have shocked locals, some of whom first thought she could have died in a hiking accident.