The man arrested in the killing of an 18-year-old St. Paul woman whose body was found in a car at a Columbia Heights impound lot has a history of brutally attacking prostitutes, authorities say.
One incident in December lasted 36 hours, according to police in surburban Atlanta, where the alleged attack took place.
Alberto Prece Palmer, 23, is accused of putting the woman in a closet and raping and beating her. He then allegedly bound and gagged her, wrapped her in blankets and put her in a plastic storage container in her car. She reportedly escaped hours later, said Chamblee, Ga., police Sgt. Ernesto Ford.
Brittany Clardy, who authorities say was working as a prostitute, appears to be another of his victims, investigators say.
Palmer was arrested Wednesday, March 6, and was being held at the Anoka County Jail on suspicion of murder in Clardy’s death. Charges were expected to be filed Friday morning.
The Anoka County sheriff’s office hasn’t said how Clardy was killed. Her body was found Feb. 21 concealed in a car towed from a Brooklyn Park apartment complex. Ten days earlier, her parents had reported her missing to St. Paul police after she did not return from a trip to the store.
Clardy had been advertising her services on Backpage.com and communicating with clients with prepaid cell phones, Anoka County
sheriff’s Cmdr. Paul Sommer said.
Using records from prepaid phones found with her body, authorities zeroed in on Palmer, who is believed to have been Clardy’s last client, Sommer said.
Her parents, who couldn’t be reached for comment, didn’t know their daughter was working as a prostitute, Sommer said.
“From all outside appearances, she appeared to be a normal 18-year-old girl,” he said. “She lived a good life with a good family in St. Paul … but as this case unraveled, it became clear Brittany followed a path in life that led her to prostitution.”
The young woman had previously worked at North Dale Recreation Center, where she helped care for children attending a free after-school program. She attended school at St. Paul’s Highland Park High School until January 2012, when she left to attend Gordon Parks High School, St. Paul Public Schools officials said.
“She was well-known and well-liked,” district spokeswoman Toya Stewart Downey said. “She had a wonderful sense of humor and was very social among her peers. Students and staff were saddened to learn of her death. She will be missed by many.”
Palmer was arrested at a Woodbury address, where he has associates and relatives, Sommer said.
He also has associates and relatives living at a single-family home on the 8400 block of Kentucky Avenue North in Brooklyn Park, where investigators say Clardy apparently was killed.
The car holding her body had been parked outside an apartment building on the 7800 block of Zane Avenue; police did not detail how her body got there or who owns the car.
Palmer was wanted in Georgia on several warrants, including aggravated assault, kidnapping and rape, Ford said.
He is accused of attacking three prostitutes in September and December, all of whom had run ads on backpage.com. Ford said the women had agreed to come to his Chamblee apartment, where they had consensual sex before Palmer, “without provocation, attacked them.”
Police had predicted his behavior could escalate to homicide, Ford said.
“We kind of suspected he had already done it or would escalate to this,” he said. “It seemed like after each encounter, he became more and more violent.”
Palmer had been leasing an apartment in Chamblee since August. He is a cook by trade, Ford said, adding it is believed he moved from Chicago to Georgia to help run a chicken-and-waffle business.
Palmer fled in December after warrants for his arrest were issued, Ford said. He apparently has been in Minnesota for several months, Sommer said.
Anoka County attorney Tony Palumbo on Thursday warned of the risks of prostitution.
“Certainly this type of work — being involved in internet activities, meeting people — can be a very, very dangerous situation, and it is our belief that, unfortunately, the worst happened to Brittany,” Palumbo said.
Pat Thraen contributed to this report. Sarah Horner can be reached at 651-228-5539. Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262.
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