Orem police confirmed Monday that officials have found what they believe are the bodies of a Utah mother and her son who have been missing for almost four years.
Officials have spent the past month focused on finding the remains of 23-year-old Emily Quijano and her 3-year-old son, Gabriel Almiron, after Quijano’s boyfriend admitted on Aug. 6 to killing the two.
Christopher Poulson said he “severely” injured Gabriel while he was babysitting the toddler on Sept. 8, 2015. He put the child to bed, and Quijano came home from school and went to sleep.
When Poulson woke up the next morning, he found Gabriel had died overnight. He panicked, prosecutors say, and shot Quijano while she slept.
As part of Poulson's plea deal, he also gave investigators information about where he buried the two bodies.
After weeks of searching, police believed they found the remains Friday buried in a shallow grave in an area about five miles south of Eureka in Juab County.
"Our hearts go out to the families of Emily and Gabe," Orem police said in a statement. "We hope that these efforts have brought some peace and comfort into your lives."
Orem police, the FBI, the Juab County Sheriff's Office and the Juab County Search and Rescue team all contributed to the Friday search. Officials say the medical examiner has "preliminarily identified" the remains as Quijano and Gabriel.
It was in Poulson’s interest that the bodies were found, as it has the potential to have an impact on the sentence he receives on Sept. 26.
Poulson pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony manslaughter, crimes that could carry a sentence of up to life in prison. But Deputy Utah County Attorney Lance Bastian said that if Quijano’s and Gabriel’s remains are found before the September sentencing date, prosecutors will ask that Poulson be allowed to plead guilty instead to 30 second-degree felonies. With that plea, Bastian said the goal would be to keep Poulson in prison for 30 years.
It will be up to the judge to decide if he’ll let Poulson change his pleas. And the parole board will ultimately decide how long Poulson spends in prison.
Authorities have long believed Poulson was responsible for killing the two. And despite not finding their bodies, prosecutors charged him with the crimes in 2017.
Poulson initially told police he broke up with Quijano on Sept. 8, 2015, telling authorities he hadn’t seen her since she left their Orem apartment with her young son after he found drug paraphernalia in their apartment. No one has seen or heard from Quijano since.
After a two-year investigation, authorities arrested Poulson in Hawaii in 2017. Poulson, now 30, was initially charged with two counts of aggravated murder and obstruction of justice, but the charges were reduced as a part of a plea deal.
Bastian said Poulson took the deal after prosecutors began revealing the amount of evidence that pointed in Poulson’s direction. While they didn’t have Quijano and Gabriel’s bodies, he said they were confident they could have secured a conviction at trial.
Prosecutors allege that Poulson murdered the woman and her son, wrapped them in sheets and then “buried or otherwise disposed of and concealed their bodies.”
The day after the mother and son disappeared, Poulson bought a shovel and work gloves and then turned off his cellphone, according to a probable cause statement filed in court. The phone was turned on again three hours later and police traced it to a rural area of Payson.
Prosecutors allege that geolocation data from Poulson’s phone show he took a trip on Sept. 11, 2015, to St. George, where he abandoned Quijano’s red Toyota Prius with the keys and some of her belongings inside. Poulson returned to Utah County via a shuttle service, charges state.
The car was found in April 2016 and was searched by police. But authorities say the only fingerprints found on the bags of Quijano’s belongings were Poulson’s.
Though Poulson had originally told investigators that Quijano usually drove him around in her car, police discovered that the man owned a Ford Mustang, which he sold below value days after the disappearances. Police tracked down and searched the vehicle, and a cadaver dog “indicated” on the trunk area three times, according to charging documents.
Poulson also told other lies to police as they investigated the disappearances, prosecutors allege. And when confronted with all of this evidence during an August 2017 police interview in Logan, Poulson left for Hawaii two days later.