Suspect in Shower Killing Moved Woman's Body in Suitcase: DA

A sex offender accused of killing a woman at a downtown San Diego hotel took steps to conceal the body, including purchasing a suitcase to apparently move the woman’s body into a community shower area, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

A deputy district attorney outlined grisly details in the mysterious killing of a 26-year-old woman visiting San Diego from Wisconsin. The prosecutor said the suspect had also been a guest at the hotel and had just met the victim.

Deputy DA Melissa Vasel laid out the details in requesting $5 million bail for Jason Bradwell Lewis. A San Diego County judge at the arraignment ordered Lewis be held without bail, as he has a history of violent crimes.

Vasel said the circumstances of the killing started out like this: Jhordann Reann Rust and her boyfriend checked in to the 500 West Hotel and Hostel on Dec. 12, but her boyfriend was soon arrested on a domestic violence charge.

Just after midnight on Dec. 13, the victim’s mom called San Diego police from Wisconsin, saying her daughter had called that night, stating she was being attacked by a man named “Jason,” Vasel said. The mother could overhear a struggle in the background.

Officers performed a welfare check, but could not find Rust.

Then, just after midnight two days later, officers received a report of a woman’s lifeless body in the hotel’s common shower area on the second floor, Vasel said.

Investigators determined she had died from strangulation, blunt force trauma or a combination of the two, Vasel said.

They also found Rust’s boyfriend’s phone and a bloody mattress pad near the body.

Officers said evidence led them to zero in on Lewis: witnesses said they saw Lewis and Rust together the night of the 12th at a 7-Eleven, the last time Rust was seen alive.

After searching Lewis’ room, officers found a bloody mattress and a bloody suitcase. Later, investigators tracked down surveillance video taken on Dec. 14 at a store of Lewis purchasing a suitcase, Vasel said.

Asked whether investigators believe Lewis used the suitcase to move the woman’s body to the shower area, the deputy district attorney said: “That’s what it would appear.”

Lewis is a registered sex offender with a criminal history that includes sexual battery, burglary, grand theft and felony domestic violence.

He has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing and, if convicted, faces 56 years to life in prison.

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