Estrada gets 42 months plus costs in Zuzu case

ALPINE – Chris Estrada of Marathon, who helped Robert Fabian bury the body of murder victim Zuzu Verk in 2016, was sentenced to 42 months in prison on a guilty plea Friday in 394th District Court.

Fabian was sentenced to life in May for the murder of the 21-year-old Sul Ross student from Keller in a trial moved to Lockhart in a change of venue.

Estrada pled guilty Friday to a tampering charge and separately to an evading charge. He had pled no contest last year and District Judge Roy B. Ferguson agreed to delay sentencing until after the Fabian trial.

On recommendation by District Attorney Sandy Wilson, Ferguson sentenced him to 42 months plus $317 court costs on the tampering charge plus an additional year and another $317 court cost on the evading charge.

Ferguson gave Estrada credit for 160 days served before posting bond on the tampering charge and one day on the evading charge.

Ferguson noted that Estrada had cooperated with law enforcement and had testified for the prosecution in the Fabian trial and ruled the sentences would run concurrently. He will serve his year on the evading charge while also serving the 42 months and will pay only one $317 court- cost fee.

Ferguson remanded Estrada to the county jail to await transfer to a state penitentiary. He was quickly handcuffed and taken to a seat in the jury box where other defendants sat while their cases were considered.

Before Ferguson dismissed the case, Estrada stood and faced Zuzu’s brother, Miles Verk, as he read the Victim Impact Statement.

Verk told him “the proper thing to have done was to call police rather than help him [Fabian] hide evidence. If you had, my sister would have been found right away” instead of going missing for four months before being discovered in a shallow grave.

“And you would have been a free man now instead of going to the penitentiary,” Verk said.

The case drew nationwide attention while Zuzu remained missing. In February, 2017, a U.S. Border Patrol agent spotted human skeletal remains off Wagon Road in Sunny Glen west of Alpine. She was positively identified a few days later.

She had been missing since October 12, 2016, after a date with Fabian the prior evening. He was identified as her boyfriend.

Fabian said he killed Verk in an argument at his apartment in the early-morning hours of October 12. He appealed to Estrada to help him hide the evidence.

According to court documents, Estrada told investigators he took Fabian to a variety store in Alpine that evening and let Fabian use his credit card to buy plastic drop cloths normally used to protect furniture from painters.

When the body was discovered, investigators also found plastic drop cloths nearby.

Fabian was arrested shortly after the body was located and Estrada was later found in Phoenix. He waived extradition and was returned to Alpine to stand trial.

Ferguson took pleas and ruled on motions in 25 cases Friday, including Estrada’s, plus six expunction cases seeking to have earlier convictions erased.