PHOENIX — A murder trial is now underway nearly two years after a Valley mom vanished without a trace. No one has seen or heard from Christine Mustafa since May of 2017.
“Right before she passed away...I’m sorry," tears streamed down Suzann Mustafa's face as she took the stand in the trial involving her sister's murder. “She sent me a box with all of my favorite things in it.”
Robert Interval is accused of killing Mustafa, and on the first day of his trial, three of Mustafa's sisters took the stand.
They described the interaction they had with Interval the day after last hearing from their sister.
“He opened the door. He seemed a little nervous. He had like dug in scratches. It was like dug in from someone’s nails," said Mona Mustafa.
Christine Mustafa was the mother of Interval's child, and she disappeared in May of 2017.
Phoenix Police spent more than a million dollars searching the Valley. They focused their search at a landfill but they never found her body.
“They’re the most difficult murder cases you can have," said Tad DiBiase.
Tad DiBiase is a former prosecutor and expert on "no-body" murder cases.
“A body will tell you when a murder occured. Did it happen an hour ago, a week ago, three years ago? The body will also generally tell you how the murder happened," said DiBiase. "You not only have to prove that the defendant sitting there is the one who committed the murder. You have to prove that there's a murder."
That's an idea that Interval's defense team is honing in on.
“Robert Interval did not kill Christine Mustafa. So what happened to Christine? Maybe she was killed by someone else. Maybe she’s alive and wanted to make a fresh start. Maybe she left the country to start a new life," said Interval's defense attorney, Jamie Jackson.
Prosecutors described Interval as a boyfriend constantly paranoid Mustafa was cheating on him. Officials say Mustafa contacted Phoenix PD the day before she vanished and asked about how to get a restraining order against Interval.
“The evidence in this trial will show that Christine Mustafa is not missing. Rather she was murdered in the early morning hours of May 11 and her body was disposed of," said prosecutor Marischa Gilla.
Despite the challenges no-body cases pose to police and prosecutors, DiBiase says statistics are in the prosecution's favor.
“Homicide cases that go to trial have about a 70 percent conviction rate. In no-body murder cases, that percent is running now, according to my calculation, about 88-89 percent," said DiBiase.
Prosecutors believe Interval wrapped Mustafa's body in a plastic mattress cover then dumped it at the landfill police searched. They say they believe her body would have been found had search teams known what to look for.
The trial resumes on Tuesday.