Michael Kufrin was arrested after the skeletal remains of 27-year-old Peggy Sue Case were discovered decades after she disappeared
The boyfriend of a woman who went missing almost three decades ago is now in custody in Utah facing a murder charge, PEOPLE confirms.
Michael Kufrin, 61, was arrested in Illinois on July 17 after the skeletal remains of 27-year-old Peggy Sue Case were discovered in Spanish Fork, Utah — 29 years after she went missing in July 1988.
Kufrin was recently extradited back to Utah, authorities say.
Case’s remains were found on May 22, 2017, when a tenant who lived at a home Case and Kufrin once shared found her skull and some bones buried in the dirt in a cement cellar in the back of the residence.
“There were a lot of rumors upon her disappearance because they never were able to find anything definitive about her,” Deputy Utah County, Utah, Attorney Alex Ludlow tells PEOPLE.
“Some of the people in the neighborhood where they had been living had been talking and speculating that something had happened to her,” Ludlow explains, “and after years and years the current tenant was in the process of moving out and heard some of the stories.”
Ludlow says the tenant had gone to check out the cellar when he noticed “a depression” in the dirt floor.
“The soil was loose and not solid or compacted, and he started digging a bit and came across the skull,” Ludlow says, noting that the skull was wrapped in a blanket and a coat authorities now believe belonged to Case.
The remains were sent to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office where they were positively identified.
“Had [the tenant] not moved out or been inquisitive, who knows how long it would have been” before she was found, Ludlow says.
Case was last seen at a Saturday night hot tub party she attended with Kufrin on July 9, 1988, in nearby Payson, Utah. Ludlow says one witness reported Case was “apparently being friendly with another individual” and Kufrin “became sullen and quiet.”
The couple allegedly left the party together — and Case was never seen again.
Ludlow says that the following Monday, when Case didn’t show up to work at her job at a gun powder plant, a colleague contacted Kufrin and he said Case was feeling ill.
Coworkers called police a few days later, on July 15, 1988. Ludlow says Kufrin then allegedly began telling a variety of different stories to the police and concerned family and friends about his girlfriend’s whereabouts.
“He said she had left to go buy a car in Nevada and another time she was out visiting friends in California,” he says. “She left with two other individuals. He gave multiple stories to try to explain her absence.”
In the ensuing years, Kufrin spent time in prison for motor vehicle theft but was never charged in connection with Case’s disappearance. He was always a person of interest, Ludlow says, but “they didn’t have any hard evidence one way or another.”
Eventually, he says, her case was “put in the file cabinet” and went inactive.
“They did searches on the property and I know they dug in spots,” Spanish Fork Police Department Lt. Brandon Anderson tells PEOPLE. “I can’t say for sure they searched that spot. It was always a case on the back of their mind. I know the detectives put a lot of work into it.”
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The discovery of Case’s remains earlier this year renewed the investigation. Almost two months later, Kufrin, who had since relocated to Illinois, was charged with her murder.
“We had two of our investigators fly out and had a conversation with him that lasted an hour,” Anderson says. “Then once he discovered a body was found, he declined to answer any more questions.”
Kufrin was extradited to Utah on Monday. Ludlow says he “resisted extradition, and it took a couple of months to get a governor’s warrant.”
Kufrin is being held on $250,000 bail and is currently in Utah County Jail. His next court appearance is set for Monday.
He has yet to enter a plea and it was not clear if he has retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
“It is a tragedy for all this time for the [Case] family not to know where their daughter was,” Ludlow says. “It is tough. I think they are relieved they have answers.”