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A Blue Ridge man has been charged with killing the woman he lived with after he admitted to burying her body in large piles of pine needles “where only the bears will find her.”

However, it was a dog that found 37-year-old Tika Young’s body while sniffing and digging through the pine needles at Bly Pit on March 30. The dog's owners called sheriff’s deputies. Deputies did not know who Young was when they found her, partially decomposed with blunt-force injuries to her face. But upon further investigation, evidence led them to their lead suspect, Patrick Nagel.

The 62-year-old Nagel eventually confessed to killing Young, who he described as the “best thing that ever happened" to him.

Nagel pleaded not guilty in April to first-degree murder, concealing her dead body in the piles of pine needles and tampering with evidence by burning the table he used to strike Young in the head with during the killing. Nagel told an investigator the broken parts of the homemade side table fit “real nice in the wood stove. I threw it in there. Heated the house with it.”

Blood specks found on the wall in Nagel’s bedroom led investigators to believe Young was killed in the home. Investigators also found the carpet in the bedroom had also been removed, leaving only the foam padding beneath.

Recent medical examiner reports have confirmed the body is Young’s through dental records and show she was killed due to blunt force trauma to the head. Nagel couldn’t remember how many times he hit her with the table, but guessed he could have hit her anywhere from three to five times.

Nagel told the investigator during a police interview that Young asked him to kill her to stop her chronic back and arthritis pain. But Young’s friends and family told deputies that although she did smoke marijuana for some pain and walked with a cane, her pain was not incredibly severe.

Bly Pit is an open pit south of Flagstaff used to throw away pine needles, bark, tree stumps and yard trimmings by people in the region. The unincorporated area around Bly Pit is speckled with small communities and homes. The nearby areas known as Blue Ridge, Happy Jack and Clints Well are patrolled by a single sheriff deputy.

Young was found at the bottom of the large pile of pine needles with a black trash bag with tied over her head, a sleeping bag covering her body and wearing pajama bottoms and a long-sleeve grey shirt.

Once a deputy laid eyes on Young’s decomposing foot hanging out of the pine needles, he put out a call, secured the scene and several sheriff’s deputies converged on the pit. They spent hours parsing through the countless pine needles for evidence in an attempt to help identify the body and a potential killer.

After chasing down leads in an attempt to identify Young, investigators received a breakthrough when a staff member at the medical examiner’s office searched the name on a partially decomposed tattoo on Young’s ankle — dog tags with the name Michael Anthony Young. The tattoo was made in memory of Young’s deceased father.

Once they had a member of Young's family on the phone, the family told deputies that Nagel had kept her friends and family from seeing or speaking with Young. The family said he was speaking through Young’s Facebook account, telling her friends and family she had left Arizona to find a new job.

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Four days after Young’s body was found, Nagel was spotted driving around in a tan pickup truck on a dirt road near his home by a deputy. After stopping his truck, a deputy found an open container of Natural Light beer in his front cup holder and used that to arrest Nagel.

In an interview at the sheriff’s office in Flagstaff, Nagel denied several times that Young was hurt or in any danger. An investigator prodded Nagel for details after telling him Young’s body had been found, by asking him how Young made him mad the night she died.

“It wasn’t mad, it was sad. All the pain she had to go through all the time. Always pain, always pain,” Nagel said.

The investigator then asked, after Nagel described the pain, “so what’d you do?”

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“I did what she told me to do,” Nagel said. “She said she didn’t want nobody comin’ walkin’ by her casket.

“She didn’t want to be a burden on anybody, said put me over somewhere where only the bears will find me. And that hurt, too, how am I gonna do that?”

The deputy asked when he had killed Young, and he indicated it occurred on Jan. 4 or 5 — around the time Nagel told Young’s family and friends she left to work in another state.

Nagel explained that Young had never asked him to hit her before. The two never explicitly discussed him killing her before, including the night she died.

“Just said ‘hit me’ and I knew what she meant,” Nagel said.

Nagel said that Bly Pit wasn’t his first choice. He would have taken her down a forest service roads and left her in a culvert, but he said the snow-packed roads were closed.

When the sheriff’s investigator asked Nagel if he regretted killing Young, Nagel responded “yes and no.”

“I regret it, because now I’m [expletive], but I don’t regret it cause she was just in so much pain all the time,” Nagel said.

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Scott Buffon can be reached at sbuffon@azdailysun.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.

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