TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Margaret Effelberg, 38, with Murder in the First Degree for the death of missing Tacoma man, Santiago Cortes. Effelberg and another defendant, Arianna Pierrottet, 48, were also charged with several property crimes for using the victim’s debit card and selling his truck after the murder. The victim was reported missing on October 4th, 2013 after he failed to report to work for several days.
On October 1, 2013, at 6:30pm, the victim used his cell phone to call Effelberg within the vicinity of her home. At 9:00pm, the victim’s phone received a short call from Effelberg’s phone. Detectives believe Effelberg murdered the victim that evening. According to detectives, Effelberg was desperate for money, had a gambling problem and was facing an eviction.
After the murder, Effelberg told Pierrottet that she needed money and asked her to help withdraw money from the victim’s bank account. Pierrottet agreed to help. The two then went to Home Depot and used the victim’s debit cards to purchase items including a reciprocating saw and blades, deodorized garbage bags and Lysol wipes.
Later, Effelberg discussed the man’s disappearance with Pierrottet, telling her that he was dead. Effelberg showed Pierrottet a smashed, blood-stained Bluetooth headset and told Pierrottet that “he was wearing this when he got hit.” Effelberg said she was surprised the victim’s body had not been found yet and that he was close by.
The defendants were arraigned today and bail was set at $500,000 for Effelberg and $150,000 for Pierrottet. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Heather Songer, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office