A Woodbury man was charged Friday with second-degree murder, accused of striking 18-year-old Brittany Clardy in the head with a hammer multiple times during an encounter at a Brooklyn Park home.

Alberto Prece Palmer, wanted in Georgia on charges of assaulting three women he met through online escort services, appeared briefly in Anoka County District Court but did not enter a plea. Judge Sharon Hall set bail at $2 million.

Clardy, of St. Paul, was last seen by her family Feb. 11 when she left home to go to the store in her parents’ 2000 silver Chrysler Concorde. She didn’t return, and her body was found in the car 10 days later in an impound lot in Columbia Heights. She died “on or about” the day she disappeared, according to the complaint against Palmer.

Palmer, 23, was arrested at his Woodbury home early Wednesday. In statements to authorities over the next two days, the complaint says, he said that he met Clardy on a website, backpage.com, and that the two had sex in a home on the 8400 block of Kentucky Avenue N. in Brooklyn Park. Palmer said the two then began to “tussle” and he choked her until she was unconscious, then struck her multiple times on the back of her head with a hammer, according to the complaint.

He said he put Clardy’s body in the back of the car, drove it to an apartment complex and returned to the home to clean up, the document says. It also says a search of the home found blood soaked through carpet and padding in some spots and blood trailing down a hallway, stairway and into the garage.

Authorities said they also found a pair of pants at the home that they believe were Clardy’s.

Investigators tracked the defendant initially through cellphone records, determining that the final calls to Clardy’s phone came from his cell.

On Thursday, authorities said Clardy had been working as a prostitute, something her family was unaware of, and that they believed Palmer was a client.

Wide-ranging investigation

Clardy’s mother reported her daughter missing on Feb. 12. On Feb. 21, she received notice the family car was in the Columbia Heights lot. She called St. Paul police, who found Clardy’s frozen body covered by bedding and other items in the back seat.

The car had been towed to the lot on Feb. 13 from a Brooklyn Park apartment complex on the 7800 block of Zane Avenue N.

The investigation has involved law enforcement from three counties — Anoka, Hennepin and Washington — and five cities — Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Woodbury and St. Paul.

State law allows a murder case to be prosecuted either where the crime occurred or where the body was found, said Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo.

Clardy attended Highland Park High School in St. Paul until January 2012. That month, she enrolled at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul but didn’t graduate. City officials said she worked for the Park and Recreation Department for parts of 2009 and 2010, and a family friend said she worked at a child-care program.

Friends and family described her warmly, calling her “a wonderful young lady,” “a good friend, a good person.”

Case in Georgia

In Georgia, Palmer is charged in connection with three physical and sexual assaults in September and December of last year. In one instance, Palmer is alleged to have met a woman on backpage.com, had sex with her, then beat and bound her and stuffed her in a closet overnight. He then had sex with her while she was bound the next morning, wrapped her in a blanket and “severely beat her,” the complaint against him in Minnesota says. Ultimately, she was able to escape when he got out of a car where he had placed her, the complaint said.

As for possible extradition to Georgia, Sgt. Ernesto Ford of the Chamblee Police Department in DeKalb County said the district attorney there will “have to make that call and they haven’t made it yet.” Ford said generally defendants are tried for the most severe charge first and that would be in Minnesota.

Palmer’s next Anoka County court appearance is scheduled for April 10.