Gary man charged with murder, robbery in Hobart strangulation case

HOBART, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) - A Gary, Indiana man has been charged with murder and robbery in the death of a 38-year-old woman whose body was found last week at a northwest Indiana motel.

Christopher Traicoff, 40, was charged Friday with felony counts of murder, robbery, fraud, forgery and failure to report a dead body, according to Lake County court records.

Authorities believed Traicoff was the last person to see April Bernal-Salazar alive, according to Lt. James Gonzalez with the Hobart Police Department.

Officers found Bernal-Salazar dead about 2 p.m. March 15 at the Keywest Inn motel at 1855 Mississippi St. in Hobart, according to police and the Lake County Coroner’s Office. An autopsy Monday found she was strangled and her death was ruled a homicide.

After reviewing several hours of surveillance videos from multiple locations, police said Bernal-Salazar and Traicoff were seen together at several establishments the evening of March 12. Traicoff purchased the hotel room where Bernal-Salazar was found dead for $50 that night, according to court records.

Bernal-Salazar, of Wheatfield, Indiana, was reported missing by her family March 14, according to court records.

An anonymous tip the day after her body was found led investigators to her vehicle in the 4800 block of Grant Street in Gary, police said.

Traicoff was taken into custody on a parol violation and held, police said. During interviews with detectives, he would not discuss details of the night he was seen with Bernal-Salazar and asked for an attorney, ending the interview.

Gonzalez said Traicoff was released on parole March 1 from the Westville Correctional Facility. Online Department of Corrections records show Traicoff was convicted of burglary and sentenced to four years in August 2017.