Francisco Cruz faces charges including capital felony, murder and sexual assault in the death of Chloe Ottman. Her body was found near Holy Land USA on Saturday, a day after her family reported her missing.
Cruz was the last person seen with Ottman, but initially denied having anything to do with her disappearance, said Waterbury police Capt. Chris Corbett. After being questioned, he led police to the body and confessed to sexually assaulting and strangling her, Corbett said.
Cruz and Ottman, both of Waterbury, had been friends for about two years and walked together to the mostly deserted Holy Land USA on Thursday evening, Corbett said.
Cruz was behind bars in lieu of $5 million bond on Sunday and was expected to be presented in court on Monday. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Holy Land USA was an 18-acre religious attraction on a hillside overlooking Waterbury in western Connecticut. Closed for years, it featured a "Hollywood"-style Holy Land USA sign and replicas of Bethlehem and Jerusalem made from scrap wood, chicken wire, sheet-metal and other materials.
Its 50-foot cross is still illuminated at night and serves as a city landmark. The site is owned by the Religious Teachers Filippini, and several nuns still live there.