SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Hundreds of relatives, friends and colleagues of slain Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova said their goodbyes at a funeral Friday in her hometown, just after German police announced that a suspect has acknowledged attacking her.

People queued at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the northern border town of Ruse to pay tribute and lay flowers at the coffin of the 30-year old, whose body was found Saturday in a park near the Danube River.

A Bulgarian Orthodox priest performed a liturgy with a procession passing the casket to pay last respects before the funeral.

Marinova is survived by a 7-year-old daughter.

Ruse Mayor Plamen Stoilov told reporters that “the brutal slaying has cast a shadow over the peaceful city.”

Bulgarian prosecutors have identified the suspect as 21-year-old Severin Krassimirov. He has been charged in absentia for Marinova’s rape and killing and Bulgaria has sought his extradition from Germany, where he was arrested on an international warrant.

German prosecutors earlier said Krassimirov told them he had not meant to kill Marinova, and he denied raping or robbing her.

The Celle prosecutor’s office said the suspect confessed to being under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he got into an argument with a woman he did not know in a park. They say he told them he hit her in the face and threw her into bushes but “denied the intent to kill.”

Prosecutors said Krassimirov will be extradited within the next 10 days.

Marinova hosted a TV show last month featuring two investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving European Union funds. While Marinova didn’t appear to have been closely involved in the fraud investigation, her show touched on a sensitive subject in Bulgaria, where corruption is endemic, and there was widespread speculation that she may have been targeted for her work.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said earlier that investigators had spoken to Marinova’s family and friends and declared that “there is no apparent link to her work,” but added that investigators are examining all possible leads.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday joined European leaders in urging Bulgarian authorities to investigate the journalist’s death thoroughly.

“Without prejudging the circumstances of her death, we affirm that violence against journalists anywhere is a threat to freedom of the press and human rights,” the State Department told The Associated Press in an email. “A free press strengthens democracy and deserves protection. Further, the U.S. government condemns violence against women in any form.”


Rising reported from Berlin.


This story corrects the nationality of the priest to Bulgarian.