Just-Released Security Pictures Show Suspect In Cold Case Murder Hours After Crime

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UPDATED: Wednesday June 26, 2013 7:02 PM

Columbus police detectives say Sar I purchased cleaning supplies, trash bags, plastic gloves and a reciprocating saw in the hours after his ex-girlfriend, Claudia Lopez Escobar, was believed to be murdered.

Columbus police hope these visual clues will jar the memory of someone or lead to a tip to bring the murder suspect to justice.

Sar I has been on the run for more than a year and is now on the FBI's wanted list for violent crimes.

"He hasn't turned up anywhere," said Columbus Homicide Detective Jay Fulton.

Read more about the case here.

Fulton and Missing Persons Unit Detective Jon Compson have been working the case since the beginning, when 29-year-old Claudia Lopez Escobar, a Mexican mother of two, was reported missing in March of 2012.

Police say her blood was found all over her co-worker and ex-boyfriend's southwestern Columbus apartment in the days that followed.

“It's our belief she never left there alive," Fulton said.

Detectives showed 10TV News pictures and video from store security cameras after the crime.

This is the first time they’ve been released to the public.

Detectives say Sar I is seen buying cleaning supplies and trash bags at a Walmart store, about a 10-minute drive from his apartment on the night of the murder.
 
“Right down to a 12-pack of pop with one can missing,” said Detective Fulton.  “The exact same articles that we recovered in the apartment on Pheasant Run are here on the store’s checkout counter."

Police say video a day later at a Columbus Lowe's store shows Sar I buying a reciprocating saw and extra blades.

Police say the saw and blades were never recovered.

"We believe they were used to help dispose of Claudia's body," Fulton said.

Detectives say security cameras also captured Sar I leaving the store in Claudia's green Jeep Cherokee, which has never been found.

Detectives say in the week after Lopez Escobar’s disappearance, Sar I abandoned his apartment and stayed for a few days with some Cambodian friends who lived on Lockbourne Road in southeast Columbus.

Detectives say Sar I then had a friend drive him to Cleveland, where he stayed at a hotel.

They say he then stayed for a few days with another Cambodian family.

Days later, detectives say Sar I’s debit card was used at a store in South Charleston, West Va.

Ten days after that, detectives say a cash withdrawal from Sar I’s account was made at a VFW in Mishawaka, Ind., where police say he was seen at a big Cambodian community New Year's party.

But after that, the trail went cold.

And now, more than a year later, detectives are hoping for a break in the case and possible help from the public.

"We'd like to bring this to a conclusion,” said Detective Fulton.  “We'd like to find out what happened to Claudia."

Detective Fulton says Claudia’s family in Mexico has never been in touch with him, but he still wants to recover her body to provide closure to her family.

“There’s nothing you can do that can ever make up for their loss,” he said.

Detectives say if Sar I ever cared for his ex-girlfriend, they still have the hope he turns himself in.

They say the key to finding Claudia's body is talking to him.

“I just need to sit down and talk to Sar I,” said Detective Fulton.

"I don't believe this is an evil person,” he continued.  “This is a person who did an evil thing.  I think it was probably a mistake. I think he probably didn’t wake up the morning of March 30, 2012, and say ‘I’m going to kill Claudia today,’” Detective Fulton went on.  “I believe something happened in that apartment, and he didn’t know what to do from then on.  He panicked and tried to cover up the crime.”

Detective Fulton is even making an appeal to the murder suspect in hiding.

“If you ever cared for Claudia at all, let us get her to her people, her family,” said Detective Fulton. "He's had to live with what he's done; it’s got to be tearing him up. That's got to be a pretty heavy burden on anybody."

Detectives admit there’s a possibility Sar I could have fled the country, but the FBI is watching the borders closely.

Detectives say there's been no real, solid clue in more than a year -- nothing on his debit card or phone – no reported sightings.

Detectives don't think Sar-I is in Columbus but possibly hiding within a Cambodian community in a bigger city, with a new name, since he's known to use aliases, most likely with a new look.

“If you ask anybody what he does, he works, he drinks beer and he fishes, and that’s about it,” added Detective Fulton.

Anyone with information about Sar I’s whereabouts or any other information that may help in the investigation, call Columbus police at 614-645-4624.

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