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Slaying of star golfer shocks Iowa college town

Homeless man kills college golf star in Iowa

This booking photo provided by the Story County (Iowa) Jail shows Collin Daniel Richards. Richards has been charged in the killing of Celia Barquin Arozamena, a former champion golfer from Spain, after her body was found Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 at a golf course in Ames, Iowa. (Story County (Iowa) Jail via AP)

By Luke Meredith and Ryan J. Foley

Associated Press

AMES, Iowa (AP) — A star collegiate golfer from Spain was attacked and killed by a homeless stranger while she was playing a round alone near her campus in Iowa, police said Tuesday.

Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was working toward joining the pro tour while finishing her degree at Iowa State University, was stabbed by the assailant Monday morning and left dead in a pond on the golf course, police said. Her body was found after fellow players saw her abandoned golf bag.

Collin Daniel Richards, a 22-year-old with a history of violence, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Investigators said Richards had told an acquaintance he had “an urge to rape and kill a woman” and that he was living in a homeless encampment near the golf course in Ames, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Des Moines.

Police said they recovered a knife and bloody clothing linked to Richards, who completed a prison sentence in June and has prior convictions for burglary and harassment.

Barquin was remembered as one of Iowa State’s most accomplished golfers and a bright engineering student. This year, she won the Big 12 championship and an amateur tournament in Europe and competed in the U.S. Women’s Open Championship.

“Losing one of our student-athletes is like losing a child,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said, choking back tears at a news conference. “We’re all devastated and heartbroken.”

Pollard said Barquin had “broke down in tears” when she found out she had been named the school’s 2018 female athlete of the year — an achievement she had been set to be honored for during Saturday’s football game. Instead, the team will wear helmet decals with Barquin’s initials to honor her.

Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff said homicides are rare in the city, and it’s “very troubling for something like this to happen in broad daylight.”

It’s the second fatal stabbing of a female college student in Iowa in recent months. An immigrant from Mexico is charged in the July slaying of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished while out for a run in the town of Brooklyn.

Police were called to Coldwater Golf Links around 10:20 a.m. Monday to investigate a possible missing player after golfers found her bag and no one around it. Officers found Barquin’s body with several stab wounds to her upper torso, head and neck, according to the complaint filed Tuesday against Richards.

A police dog tracked Barquin’s scent to a homeless encampment near the course where Richards had been living in a tent, the complaint said. Officers found Richards with several scratches on his face consistent with fighting and a deep laceration in his left hand that he tried to conceal, it said.

That man told investigators Richards had said recently he had “an urge to rape and kill a woman” while they were walking near the course, the complaint said. A second acquaintance told police that Richards arrived at his nearby home Monday “disheveled and covered in blood, sand and water.” He bathed and left with his clothes in a backpack.

Investigators later recovered shorts with blood stains and a knife that Richards allegedly gave to two other people after the slaying, the complaint said. Those two individuals were driving Richards out of town, but he asked them to drop him off near the camp so he could get his tent.

Huff said no one else had been charged, but that the investigation was ongoing.

Professional golfer Sergio Garcia, a native of Spain and one of Barquin’s favorites, tweeted that he was heartbroken by the news, saying he’d had the pleasure of meeting Barquin and calling her a “special person.”

A judge ordered Richards jailed on a $5 million, cash-only bond during a court appearance Tuesday.

Richards, who faces life in prison if convicted, reported in a financial affidavit that he has no job. Paul Rounds, a public defender assigned to represent him, filed paperwork asserting that his client didn’t wish to speak to investigators.

Barquin, a native of Puente San Miguel, Spain, was finishing her civil engineering degree this semester after exhausting her playing eligibility in 2017-2018, according to the university .

She was one of the most accomplished golfers in school history. In April, she became the second women’s golfer at Iowa State to earn medalist honors at a conference tournament when claiming the 2018 Big 12 Championship with a three-shot victory.

Barquin, who was ranked No. 69 nationally by Golfweek, ended her collegiate career with a fourth-straight NCAA Regional appearance and earned All-Big 12 Team honors for the third time. She was the third Iowa State women’s golfer to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open Championship.

Her former team announced Tuesday it was pulling out of the East & West Match Play in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be with friends and family and to grieve their loss. Women’s golf coach Christie Martens said Barquin was an “outstanding representative of our school.”

“We will never forget her competitive drive to be the best and her passion for life,” Martens said.

Richards left prison in June after serving seven months for violating the terms of his probation, following convictions for burglary, theft, criminal mischief and harassment, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. Records show he was arrested weeks later after he was found passed out near an Ames liquor store, telling police he took antidepressants before drinking alcohol.

Since 2014, Richards had been charged with abusing a girlfriend, stealing a pickup truck, using a baseball bat to smash a car window and burglarizing a gas station. In one case, the Iowa State Patrol seized a long knife from him during a traffic stop. In another, he threatened to return to a convenience store to shoot clerks who caught him shoplifting.

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Foley reported from Iowa City, Iowa.

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