Alan Champagne's Girlfriend Accused of Helping Kill, Bury People Found in Backyard Coffin

Alan Champagne, the man Phoenix police believe is responsible for the deaths of two people found in a homemade coffin in a backyard earlier this month, apparently had some help in the murders and burial of the victims' bodies.

Champagne's girlfriend, 22-year-old Elise Garcia, was arrested on Monday on charges related to the murder of Philmon Tapaha, the brother of Champagne's baby-mama, and his girlfriend, Brandi Hoffner.

See also:
-Alan Champagne Pleads Not Guilty to Murders of People Found in Backyard Coffin in Phoenix
-Alan Champagne's Backyard Bodies Were His Baby-Mama's Brother, His Girlfriend
-Alan Champagne Charged in the Deaths of Two People Found in Backyard Coffin
-Landscapers Find Coffin with Body Buried in Backyard of Murderer's Former Home

Champagne, who was already convicted of second-degree murder and served his prison sentence for that crime, has been in jail since last year on attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting at cops.

Since then, his mother's Phoenix home went into foreclosure, and was sold. The new owner was having landscaping work done earlier this month, and discovered a homemade coffin, containing the bodies of Tapaha and Hoffner, which had been buried there for about two years.

According to new court documents in the case obtained by New Times, police have discovered since Champagne's arrest that Tapaha was killed by a gunshot to the head, while Hoffner was strangled by an extension cord -- which was still wrapped around her neck when her bodies was unearthed a few weeks ago.

Police had always suspected Champagne, but a very clueless maintenance man -- who also helped Champagne build the coffin (which he didn't know was a coffin) -- accidentally helped clean up the murder scene, Champagne's former apartment.

Almost a year ago, after Champagne had already been jailed for allegedly shooting at police during an unrelated stand-off situation, homicide investigators "learned information" about Garcia's alleged involvement, according to the documents.

The reports don't state how, but police found out that Garcia, Champagne, Tapaha, and Hoffner were all doing drugs together inside Champagne's apartment.

According to a probable-cause statement:

"While they were inside of the apartment, Champagne pointed a gun at the male and female and got into a disagreement with the male and shot him in the head. After this occurred, Elise Garcia held the female inside of the apartment at gunpoint while Champagne left the apartment for a brief amount of time. Champagne returned to the apartment and choked the female to death. After the two victims were deceased within the apartment, Champagne convinced a neighbor to build a box for the bodies. The bodies were removed from the apartment and then Elise Garcia and Alan Champagne attempted to clean the apartment by removing some of the carpet flooring and attempted to clean the apartment using lime."

During that stand-off with police last year, Garcia was with Champagne in the house at the time. Although Champagne was being investigated for an unrelated aggravated assault investigation, Champagne and Garcia both thought police were coming to arrest them on murder charges, thus leading Champagne to allegedly shoot at police. Garcia "pretended to be a hostage victim" during this, according to the documents.

Garcia, who works at a Taco Bell, was arrested on Monday on charges of murder and concealing a dead body.

She didn't talk to investigators, according to court documents.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley