A 24-year-old Ellensburg man faces first degree murder charges for the death of former Sequim resident Stephanie Curtis.
Kittitas County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit announced Wednesday, Jan. 17, they arrested Christopher Almaral in the early morning after seizing a handgun allegedly linked to the murder of Curtis, 34.
Curtis was found dead with gunshots around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 7, alongside State Route 821 four miles south of Ellensburg, undersheriff Clay Myers reported.
The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office said investigators looked into security footage in Yakima County that showed Almaral and Curtis together the night before her body was found.
Security footage also provided a vehicle description and time the two left Legends Casino Hotel in Toppenish too, Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office officials report.
Myers said they are still piecing together a timeline of Jan. 6-7, but said according to video footage it appears Curtis may have approached Almaral in the casino, and that they left later on Saturday night.
Sheriff deputies are still investigating Curtis’ death, Myers said, and that they do not yet know the connection between the two. Almaral claims he did not know her before that evening, he said.
Kittitas County detectives report the vehicle in question in Ellensburg, leading them to search traffic videos to track it entering, leaving and re-entering Ellensburg in the early morning hours between the time the victim and suspect left Toppenish and the time her body was found.
Deputies searched Almaral’s home and vehicle and found a .38 caliber handgun with bullets consistent with Curtis’ wound. They also found a sawed-off shotgun.
“This case was solved as a result of multiple law enforcement agencies, members of the public and business owners providing cooperation and assistance to the sheriff’s detectives, with a special thanks to the Yakima Police Department for their support,” Myers said.
Almaral had his first appearance in Kittitas County Superior Court on Jan. 17 with bail posted at $1 million. His next court appearance is set for Jan. 29.
Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office first reported Curtis’ death on Jan. 9.
Myers said prior to her death Curtis was living in the Yakima area.
Earlier this week, family and friends held a visitation and recitation of the rosary on Monday in Toppenish, and a Mass of Christian Burial on Tuesday near Wapato at Reservation Community Memorial Park.
An obituary for Curtis stated she is survived by her husband Ebigael Torres of Sequim and three children also of Sequim and her parents Ricardo and Alma Ayala of Wapato and Julie Curtis of Tacoma, and several brothers and sisters.
She was raised in Wapato and grew up Catholic, the obituary states, and she enjoyed walking, spending time with her children and drinking coffee.
Curtis worked as a laborer and a housekeeper.