Pilgrimage in Spain
Miguel Ángel Muñoz Blas arriving at a courthourse in Spain last month. He was found guilty on Wednesday of murdering an American tourist who was on the Camino de Santiago.
Miguel Riopa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A jury on Wednesday found a Spanish man guilty of murdering an American tourist who was on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route, in 2015.
The man, Miguel Ángel Muñoz Blas, 41, killed the tourist, Denise Thiem, while she was crossing northwestern Spain to make her way to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the jury found. The prosecution is seeking 25 years in prison for the murder; a judge is to deliver the sentence within days.
Ms. Thiem disappeared on April 5, 2015 — Easter Sunday — about a month after she had arrived in Spain to walk the pilgrimage route. She was 41 and had quit her job in Phoenix the previous year to travel the world.Photo
Denise Thiem, in a photograph provided by her family.
Mr. Muñoz Blas initially confessed to the killing but later retracted, claiming that he had only found the body. The prosecution, however, maintained that Ms. Thiem had lost her way because of a fake marker that Mr. Muñoz Blas had placed along the route to confuse pilgrims and lure them toward his property.
Mr. Muñoz Blas offered no clues about his motives during the trial, which started last month.
He was also convicted on Wednesday of stealing about $1, 100 in cash that Ms. Thiem had been carrying.
The Camino de Santiago has been revitalized in recent years and has become one of Spain’s main tourism attractions, providing an economic lifeline for many of the small villages and towns along the way, including Astorga, where Ms. Thiem stayed just before her disappearance.
Last year, more than 270, 000 pilgrims received a certificate after completing at least part of one of the official routes to Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral, reputed to be the final resting place of St. James.