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Body of missing Florida woman Cassie Carli found after police arrest suspect

By Susannah Cullinane, Tina Burnside and Dakin Andone, CNN

Police have discovered the body of missing Florida woman Cassie Carli in a “shallow grave” in Alabama, the Santa Rosa County, Florida, sheriff said Sunday.

Carli, 37, was last seen on March 27 when she met Marcus Spanevelo — the father of her 4-year-old daughter — for a child exchange in the parking lot of a Navarre Beach restaurant, authorities said. She was reported missing the next day.

Carli’s car and her purse were recovered Tuesday on a “boat overflow ramp” near the restaurant, investigators said.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook Saturday that Spanevelo had been arrested in Lebanon, Tennessee, by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and state troopers.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said in a news conference Sunday that the Major Crimes Unit had traveled over 1,500 miles in a week, searching for evidence relating to Carli’s disappearance.

“We discovered her body while executing a search warrant in Alabama. It was in a barn, in a shallow grave,” Johnson told reporters.

The sheriff said police were not yet revealing what led them to the location Saturday evening, but that the property was linked to Spanevelo “in a roundabout way.”

An autopsy would be conducted on the body in Alabama on Monday, Johnson said. Her identity was “confirmed by a tattoo,” he added.

He said he notified Carli’s family in person on Sunday and they were “crushed.”

“It gives them some closure that they know where’s she’s at now. But still it’s their daughter … daughter and sister and it is terrible.”

Carli’s daughter was located Wednesday with Spanevelo in Birmingham, Alabama. On Sunday, Johnson said that she was safe and with family.

Spanevelo is being held in Tennessee on charges of tampering with evidence, giving false information concerning a missing persons investigation and destruction of evidence, the sheriff’s office said. It was not immediately clear Sunday morning if he had an attorney who would comment on his behalf.

Spanevelo allegedly took Carli’s phone “and basically got rid of it,” Johnson said in a news conference Sunday.

Asked if Spanevelo had cooperated with investigators, the sheriff said “absolutely not.”

“He was totally uncooperative, he never cooperated at all with us,” he said. “It’s your baby’s mother and she’s missing and you’re not going to cooperate with authorities — that’s kind of tell-tale,” he said.

Johnson said police believe Spanevelo had acted alone.

The State Attorney’s Office said if Spanevelo did not waive extradition it could take about 30 days to return him to Florida.

Johnson said any potential additional charges are pending the results of the autopsy. He said he was unaware of any previous criminal record on Spanevelo.

The sheriff praised the Major Crimes Unit for its work on the case.

“They went over 1,500 miles in this investigation, multiple search warrants on cars, phones, houses, properties, I just cannot speak highly enough about them,” he said. “We hate it that Cassie has passed away but it’s good to get closure for the family.”

Johnson said investigations were continuing.

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CNN’s Abby Bustin contributed to this report.

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