The young woman found dead and stuffed inside a suitcase discovered in downtown San Diego Wednesday is 21 years old, homicide investigators with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) confirm.
On Thursday, police said they had identified the victim of the grisly killing, though her name was being withheld until investigators could notify her family. The woman’s name will be released by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s (ME) office.
The young woman’s body was found inside a black suitcase just after 11 a.m. near the 1300 block of 7th Avenue and A Street downtown. Police said a man who lives in the area saw the suitcase on the ground and walked over to check it out.
“He looked at it, determined that it looked a little suspicious and that’s when he called police,” SDPD Lt. Ray Valentin said Wednesday.
That man, a retired U.S. Navy service member named Phil, spoke with NBC 7 about the disturbing discovery. He preferred not to give his full name and was understandably shaken, still fighting to get the gruesome images out of his mind.
Phil told NBC 7 there are a lot of homeless people in his neighborhood and he often sees them rummaging through trash cans in the area where he found the suitcase. Residents keep their trash cans there and when Phil first noticed the suitcase, he figured it had been left behind by a transient.
“I was taking out my trash, I saw the trash can down and I saw the suitcase there and it was close to our building. I was basically picking it up to get it out of the way,” he said. “That’s when I realized it was a lot more there than what I thought I was looking at."
Phil knew something was terribly wrong when he spotted human hair peeking out of the zipper of the luggage..
“I dropped [the suitcase] and looked down and saw hair, black hair coming out...because it was zipped up, but you could still see the hair,” he said.
Phil called authorities and SDPD detectives launched a homicide investigation. No details have yet been released on the woman’s cause or manner of death. At this point, the date of the woman’s death is also unclear. The ME’s report has not been finalized.
On Thursday, Phil told NBC 7 he was "still processing" the shocking ordeal.
“Basically, [I’m] just replaying what happened. I was wondering what was going on? Who was she? What happened?” Phil said. “There’s no way you are ready for something like that; to see something like that.”
Phil said he feels terrible for the woman’s family.
“I feel so sorry for the parents,” he lamented. “No person deserves that type of ending.”
“That’s going to be an image that I – that’s going to be on my mind for a while. You don’t erase that. It’s a person,” he added, visibly upset. “I have a mother, a sister, family friends that I love. No one deserves to be thrown out with the trash like that.”
Phil said he’s heard of things like this happening in major cities but said that seeing something like this up close is different and more horrifying than he could’ve ever imagined.
Anyone with information on this case can call the SDPD’S Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, no arrests had been made in connection with this case.