Suspect arrested in cold case murder mystery

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man suspected in the 2009 murder of Courtney Hoag.

Christopher Russo was extradited from California and arrested in Arizona on September 24.
Russo is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend at a Tempe hotel near the I-10 and Baseline. Sheriff’s deputies said Hoag was at the hotel on a visit from California, to get away from Russo.
“She was looking to stay out here for a fresh start,” said Jeff Sprong, a spokesman for MCSO. “He was able to track where she was. He came out to Arizona where we believe he in fact murdered her in the hotel room.”
Sheriff’s deputies said Russo cleaned the hotel room, and then allegedly drove Courtney’s body in her rental car to an unknown location.
“Unfortunately to this date, we still haven’t found her body, but we and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office feel confident given the witnesses and the physical evidence that we can get a guilty verdict,” said Sprong.
The case went cold after about 48 hours, but since that time, sheriff’s deputies said an eye-witness to the murder came forward, and DNA evidence was found in the hotel room linking Russo to the crime.
The DNA evidence was found after both Russo and the hotel cleaning staff cleaned the hotel room.
Detectives are also currently testing physical evidence found in Courtney’s rental car.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office put out a warrant for Russo’s arrest about a year ago, after detectives carefully worked to piece together a strong enough case.
“He was arrested in California for a drug offense. The warrant came up and that’s why he was extradited this week,” said Sprong.
Russo faces several charges, including first degree murder.