SPRINGVILLE, Ala. – Florida mother Cassie Carli vanished March 27 as she attempted a custody exchange with her ex-boyfriend.
The Carli family’s frantic search for the missing 37-year-old came to a tragic end Saturday when her body was found buried in a shallow grave inside an Alabama barn, authorities said.
Carli’s 4-year-old daughter, Saylor, is safe, according to authorities and her family.
“It’s not the ending that we wanted, obviously,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said during a Sunday news conference. “But we’re hoping to provide a little closure for the family.”
Carli’s ex-boyfriend, Marcus Spanevelo, was arrested Saturday in Lebanon, Tennessee. Thus far, he is charged with tampering and destruction of evidence and giving false information concerning a missing persons investigation.
Johnson told AL.com in Birmingham that the tampering charge stems from Spanevelo taking and getting rid of Carli’s cellphone. He did not elaborate further on the evidence.
Additional charges are expected, Johnson said.
Watch Sunday’s news conference below.
Detectives spent a week executing multiple search warrants in multiple states, traveling over 1,500 miles to solve the case, the sheriff said Sunday. Multiple agencies in all three states have been assisting in the case.
“We have definitely got a great case, and once the autopsy’s done and you see the charges filed, you’ll understand,” Johnson said. “And he’s either going to spend the rest of his life in prison or he’s going to get the needle. Hopefully the needle.”
AL.com reported that Carli’s body was found buried in a barn in St. Clair County, Alabama. Johnson told the news outlet that his investigators had received information about the possible location of Carli’s body and carried out a search warrant.
The sheriff declined Sunday to say how that information was obtained.
AL.com reported that the warrant was for a property at 7826 Highway 11 in Springville, located about 30 miles outside of Birmingham. Spanevelo has been living and working in the Birmingham area recently, and the Springville address was one authorities had for him, according to the news outlet.
Spanevelo also has connections to Panama City, Florida.
According to Florida authorities, Carli was last seen on Navarre Beach, where she was scheduled to exchange custody of Saylor with Spanevelo, who is the girl’s father. Carli and her daughter were living with Carli’s father in Navarre while she got back on her feet, her sister said.
Her family told Dateline last week that Carli had just begun a new job the day before at Eglin Air Force Base.
“She was in the middle of starting a new job on base being a lead server,” Carli’s sister, Raeann Carli, said. “Saturday evening was the last time she texted me, but she said it just went well.”
The night that she vanished, Cassie Carli drove about a mile from her father’s house to make the custody exchange.
The initial exchange spot was to be at a Walmart in Destin, Florida, Raeann Carli said.
Watch Raeann Carli’s statement below regarding her sister’s death.
“She knew to go to, you know, a public, well-lit place, all that,” she said of her sister.
The plan changed at the last minute, and the exchange ended up taking place at a nearby restaurant, Juana’s Pagodas and Sailors’ Grill.
“Juana’s — it is a local bar that she — it’s always been there. So a big parking lot and people using the boat ramp, usually a nice public place,” Raeann Carli told Dateline. “My dad said it was just a very brief, you know, ‘Be right back, Dad. I’m just — just going right to Juana’s.’”
Cassie Carli left with Saylor around 7 p.m. When her father awoke at 10:45 p.m. and she was not home, he grew worried. He began calling and texting her, with no response.
Carli’s father then received text messages from her cellphone stating she was having phone and car trouble, Dateline reported. She never returned home, however, and the family reported her missing.
Carli’s vehicle was found the next day behind Juana’s. Her purse was inside, Johnson said.
It triggered alarm bells for deputies.
“As you know, most women don’t leave their purse behind when they go somewhere,” the sheriff told AL.com. “That caused us a little concern.”
As for Spanevelo, Johnson told the media outlet he has been “acting like a dirt bag.”
“He never cooperated with us at all,” Johnson said. “Think about it. It’s your baby’s mother, and she’s missing, and you’re not going to cooperate with authorities. That’s kind of telltale.”
Johnson said Spanevelo had just one word — “lawyer” — for officers when he was arrested in Tennessee.
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed Monday morning to determine Carli’s cause of death.
Spanevelo remained in the Maury County Jail awaiting extradition.
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