San Diego

Attorney: Man Who Stuffed Dead Co-Worker into Suitcase Was Sexually Humiliated

Joshua Matthew Palmer was heartbroken when he saw the woman he desired having sex with another man, his attorney told jurors Monday.

What to Know

  • Shauna Haynes' body was discovered by a man who lives near The Chadwick Hotel on April 6, 2016.
  • Haynes was a 2013 graduate of Grossmont High School in San Diego's East County.
  • According to court records, Joshua Palmer had no prior criminal history in San Diego County

Seeing a woman he desired have sex with another man pushed a San Diego man to beat, rape, sodomize and strangle the woman to death, prosecutors told jurors Monday.

Joshua Palmer is on trial for first-degree murder in the killing and rape of his co-worker, Shauna Haynes. 

Haynes, 21, was found dead on April 6, 2016, inside a suitcase left near trash bins outside The Chadwick, an apartment building at A Street and 7th Avenue in downtown San Diego.

Detective David Spitzer, now retired from San Diego Police Department, was the first to open the suitcase. He explained what he saw. “So I pulled the flap all the way open, and you could see the full female, she had been squashed up to her arms and legs, she's a small girl and it's a travel size suitcase, one you can put up in the overhead bin in an airplane, she had been crammed in as far as she could, everything peeled in and then zipped up.”

Two days later, Palmer was arrested in connection with Haynes’ killing.

As his trial began Monday, prosecutors described the victim as a platonic friend of the defendant.  The two worked together at the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.

However, the defense attorney told jurors that Palmer was in love with Haynes and that the victim had planned to move in with Palmer. 

“This is not a case where you will have to decide who caused the death of Shauna Haynes. The issues in this case are the circumstances surrounding her death and when and how the sex happened,” said Palmer's attorney Katie Belisle. 

Haynes was killed after an incident on the night of April 4, 2016, when she, Palmer and two other people were in the apartment.

Palmer was unable to sexually satisfy a woman he had brought home. The woman left Palmer and joined into a threesome with Haynes and a man she had brought home, attorneys said. 

Belisle told jurors her client was humiliated. 

"He was heartbroken," Belisle said. "All he could do was stand there and watch." 

Jurors were warned they would be shown a video with evidence of necrophilia as part of the case.

"After she was dead, [Palmer] videotaped himself playing with [Haynes] in unimaginable ways on his cell phone,” Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said in his opening statement.

The defense agreed the video would be difficult to watch for the jurors but said there will be evidence presented that suggests there was no rape but rather, consensual sex.

She said forensic investigators found other DNA on Haynes' body not belonging to the individuals in the room on the night in question. 

The jury also heard from the suspect himself. The day Haynes' body was discovered, Palmer called 911 to file a false missing person report. 

In the call, Palmer tells a dispatcher he last saw Haynes, who he referred to as his girlfriend, at 12:30 in the morning on Tuesday and she has bipolar disorder.

Palmer sent text messages from the victim’s cellphone to family members to make it appear as if Haynes was still alive.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s office has charged Palmer with murder and special circumstance allegations of murder during a rape. He’s also charged with murder during sodomy and murder during a rape by an instrument.

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