Verdict Reached in San Diego Hostel Homicide Trial

Jason Lewis, 41, is accused of killing Jhordann Rust, 26, and leaving her lifeless body in a shower area of a downtown hostel

Jurors have returned a verdict in the trial of a San Diego man accused of killing a Wisconsin woman and leaving her body in a communal shower of a downtown San Diego hostel.

Jason Lewis, 41, a registered sex offender with a criminal history that includes sexual battery and felony domestic violence, was convicted Friday of first-degree murder charges in the death of Jordhann Rust.

On Dec. 15, police found Rust's body in a communal shower area on the second floor of the 500 West Hotel and Hostel at West Broadway and Columbia Street.

The 26-year-old Wisconsin woman had just arrived to San Diego with her boyfriend days before her death.

Experts determined the cause of death was blunt force injury to the head and neck and possible strangulation, according to testimony in court.

The victim’s DNA was found on pants and bed sheets found inside the defendant’s room, according to testimony from investigators.

Lewis pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. His attorney did not call witnesses to testify on his client's behalf.

Ann Nielsen, Rust's mother, testified last week and described hearing her daughter screaming on the other end of the phone on the night she died.

The  last words Nielsen heard Rust say before the line went dead were, “That hurts!”

Nielsen called the San Diego Police Department and told authorities that she heard "crashing against a wall" and her daughter saying "Ow, Ow, Ow" before their call was disconnected.

Rust’s boyfriend Cory Nowell was arrested, accused of domestic violence on December 12. He was jailed for two days and was released Monday night, Dec. 14.

In a 911 call to police, Nowell told the dispatcher he returned to the couple's room and found Rusts clothes and shoes but no sign of her.

A member of the hotel's housekeeping staff discovered Rust's body in a communal bathroom the next day. 

Surveillance video recorded Lewis purchasing a suitcase at a local store on December 14. San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel said Lewis used that suitcase to move Rust's body.

On Thursday, SDPD homicide detective Louis Maggy showed jurors a suitcase found in Lewis' room at the hostel. Maggy unzipped the suitcase and testified the victim’s blood was found in the bottom inside corner and on the side of the luggage.

Nowell said the couple lived on the streets in Denver before coming to San Diego. He testified she had a history of wandering off with strangers.

Lewis faces 56 years behind bars when he's sentenced in December.

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