Trial of man accused of killing AZ woman in Spain begins

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authorities lead suspect Miguel Angel Munoz (left, in green) out of a building, in Grandas de Salime, northwest Spain. Munoz is accused of killing Denise Thiem of Arizona in 2015 (Source: AP file photo and Facebook) authorities lead suspect Miguel Angel Munoz (left, in green) out of a building, in Grandas de Salime, northwest Spain. Munoz is accused of killing Denise Thiem of Arizona in 2015 (Source: AP file photo and Facebook)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo via Facebook) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo via Facebook)
Authorities lead suspect Miguel Angel Munoz out of a building in Grandas de Salime, northwest Spain (Source: AP file photo) Authorities lead suspect Miguel Angel Munoz out of a building in Grandas de Salime, northwest Spain (Source: AP file photo)
Denise Pikka Thiem (Source: Facebook) Denise Pikka Thiem (Source: Facebook)

MADRID (AP) -- A trial got underway Monday for a Spanish man charged with killing an American woman while she was walking a world-renowned pilgrimage route in Spain.

Denise Pikka Thiem, a 41-year-old woman from Arizona, went missing in April 2015 in a rural area of northwestern Spain's Leon province while following the French route of the Camino de Santiago, a popular pilgrimage also called the St. James Way.

ORIGINAL STORY: Arizona woman missing in Spain (April 30, 2015)

Five months later, police detained Miguel Angel Munoz, a 41-year-old man, who led investigators to the place where Thiem's body was partly buried

RELATED: Body found in Spain likely that of missing Arizona woman (Sept. 12, 2015)

According to the coroner's report, she had died as a result of serious brain injuries caused by repeated beatings.

Authorities think Thiem was diverted from the trail by a marker Munoz allegedly put up to confuse pilgrims.

The public prosecutor has asked for Munoz to 25 years of imprisonment for Munoz -- 20 years for homicide and five years for theft with violence.

He originally confessed to having killed Thiem, but he has since retracted the confession and testified that he only found the body.

Munoz is also accused of stealing more than $1,100 Thiem was carrying, money that he allegedly exchanged for euros at a local bank days after she disappeared, according to court documents seen by The Associated Press.

The trial is expected to last until April 3.

On Monday, the court appointed a jury of eight women and one man during a closed-door session, a court spokesman said. He spoke anonymously in line with internal court policy.

Munoz is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. Thiem's brother is expected to testify at a later date via video conference from the United States, the spokesman said.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said not long after Thiem's remains were found that the FBI had cooperated in the search, which at one point involved 300 police and military personnel, as well as helicopters.

The Camino de Santiago has for centuries led pilgrims and tourists to the city of Santiago de Compostela at Spain's northwestern tip, where the cathedral is believed to house the bones of St. James, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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