Despite trying to clean up the bloodstained bathroom where his girlfriend was beaten, strangled and stabbed, authorities said Matthew Dieterle left behind a crucial piece of evidence - his bloody palm print on the rim of the tub.
Dieterle, who disappeared before Samantha MacQuilliam's body was found Thursday night, was arrested early Saturday morning at Tampa International Airport. Homicide detectives surprised him at the gate as he stepped off a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore, with his mother and uncle in tow.
Dieterle, 23, requested a lawyer, refusing to answer any questions before being taken to jail on a first-degree murder charge, Pinellas sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said. Without his help, detectives said they were at a loss to explain the motive behind the brutal slaying.
MacQuilliam, a 19-year-old University of Tampa student, was found dead Thursday night when the couple's two roommates, Kyle P. Bennett, 19, and Jason R. Eggert, 20, arrived at the house they all shared at 2820 Wendover Ter., near Lake Tarpon.
She was lying in the bathtub of the master bathroom wearing jeans and a bra. Authorities said she had suffered "blunt and sharp trauma" to her head and upper body, including several stab wounds, and investigators believe she had been killed the day before.
MacQuilliam and Dieterle were both from Gambrills, Md., about midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. They moved to Florida together about a year ago, living in Tampa for a time before moving to Palm Harbor a month ago. Authorities said Dieterle was not a student and was currently unemployed.
Neighbors in the quiet Windmill Pointe neighborhood said they heard that the couple had perhaps broken up, but authorities said both MacQuilliam and Dieterle were still living at the house.
Early on in the investigation, detectives learned that Dieterle had left Pinellas County and driven back to Maryland in his 2002 Lincoln. They later found out he was coming back on a late-night flight and decided to meet him at the gate with an arrest warrant.
Phone messages left with Dieterle's family in Maryland were not returned on Saturday.
Pinellas records show he was arrested on June 20 on charges of marijuana possession and fleeing and eluding authorities. An arraignment has been scheduled for those charges on Aug. 27.
Dieterle was being held without bail Saturday in the Hillsborough County Jail. Authorities said he would be transferred to the Pinellas jail next week.
Meanwhile, friends and relatives continued to grieve MacQuilliam, a young woman and high school honors student whom they described as loving, spirited and full of life. After working at a day care center in Maryland, she had decided to study pediatrics, friends said.
"We are only months apart, but I always looked up to her and she was always the one to go to when I needed advice," said a friend, Ashley Maxwell, via e-mail.
Beginning on Friday, several of MacQuilliam's friends had started a memorial group on the Facebook Web site. The group's description read:
"We all love you and are going to miss you dearly. You didn't deserve anything like this to happen to you."
Staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Jacob H. Fries can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8872.