Suspect in killing of US woman in Spain refuses to defend himself

Miguel Angel Munoz (C) arrives at the provincial court of Leon, north of Spain, to be tried for the murder of a US tourist in 2015, on March 14, 2017

A Spanish man charged with killing an American woman on a pilgrims' hiking trail and then cutting off her hands refused Tuesday to answer questions at his trial.

"I will not make a statement. I won't answer any questions from prosecutors or my lawyer either," Miguel Angel Munoz told the court in the northern city of Leon on the second day of his trial.

Munoz is accused of robbing and killing Denise Pikka Thiem, 41, of Arizona, whose mutilated body was found on his land five months after she disappeared in April 2015.

She went missing while walking the Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, a popular pilgrim trail in northwestern Spain.

The authorities suspect Thiem was diverted from the trail by marker signs Munoz painted to confuse pilgrims and send them towards his farm.

Prosecutors say Munoz hit Thiem three times on the head with a stick and then slit her throat with a knife.

He then cut off her hands in what prosecutors allege was an attempt to disguise her identity before burying her body. The missing hands have never been found.

Munoz is also accused of stealing $1,132 (1,209 euros) which Thiem was carrying and which he exchanged for euros at a local bank after she disappeared.

He originally confessed to having killed Thiem, but he has since retracted the confession and says he only found her body.

Munoz's lawyer Vicente Prieto said his client was not able to take questions because he had suffered a breakdown due to a recent string of problems. Prieto also said his client suffers from a psychiatric illness which he did not name.

"First his house was robbed, then it was burned down and reduced to ash, all of this when combined with the psychiatric illness he has, produced a serious breakdown," Prieto told reporters.

Public prosecutors have called for a 25-year jail sentence -- 20 years for homicide and five years for theft with violence.

The trial is expected to last until April 4. The court appointed a jury of eight women and one man during the first day of the trial on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims hike the Camino de Santiago each year, staying at hostels on their way to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St. James.

Its popularity with Americans took off after the release of the film "The Way" in 2010 made by Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez.