Bodies in Suitcases

The case of Jessica Lewis (36) and Austin Wenner (27) from Seattle

On June 19, 2020 two Tik Tok users (@ughhenry and @natthecvt) logged onto the Randonautica app. If you’ve never heard of it –

  • Per their website: “puts the user in the Director’s Chair of an adventure story yet to be written. By using the app, the user can break from their mundane day-to-day and take a journey of randomness into the world around them. Your mind is your guide as you observe and view the world differently.”
  • NY TIMES – “On first use, Randonautica offers a brief intro and some tips (“Always Randonaut with a charged phone,” “Never trespass”) before prompting you to share your location. Then it will ask you to choose which type of point you would like it to generate (the differences between which only matter if you believe the app can read your thoughts) before fetching coordinates from a random number generator. The user can then open that location in Google Maps to begin their journey.”

While using the app, the group found a black suitcase washed up on rocks at Duwamish Head in West Seattle.

One of the videos from the day has text which says: “Randonautica sent us to this part of the beach and we found this black suitcase. We were joking that maybe the suitcase would have money. As soon as she opened it, the smell was overwhelming.”

In the video, you see the suitcase and one of the girls is poking it with a stick until she gets it open. As soon as she opens it, they all recoil because of the stench. Inside the suitcase, you can see a black garbage bag, but it’s dense – the suitcase was packed full.

The teens called the police and apparently it took 3 hours for them to arrive and the teens called multiple times. The suitcase started washing away as the tide began to rise and they said they saw what was inside after the bag was jostled around by the waves.

When the police finally arrived the suitcase was washed out to sea, but dive teams recovered it.

The suitcase contained not one, but 2 sets of dismembered human remains and there were several bags recovered by police.

They were identified as 36 year old Jessica Lewis and her boyfriend 27 year old Austin Wenner.

Jessica and Austin

It was revealed by the King’s County Medical Examiner that the two died around June 9th of gunshot wounds. Jessica suffered multiple gunshot wounds while Anthony died of a single gunshot wound to the torso.

Police had said little about the ongoing investigation up until a few days ago when an arrest was made on August 20th, 2020.

They arrested a 62-year-old man named Michael Lee Dudley – it came to light he was their landlord.

Michael Dudley

You can read the probable cause documents for this case here.

Detectives learned through interviews of family and friends that the two victims were last seen at 16466 Ambaum Blvd S, in Burien, WA. Detectives learned that the property belonged to Michael L. DUDLEY.

Detectives obtained phone records of the victims and learned that their phones stopped transmitting or receiving data on 6-9-20 at approximately 1908 hrs (7:08 pm). One of the last calls from the victim’s phone was to DUDLEY at 1901 hrs and that call pinged off a cell tower within a mile of 16466 Ambaum Blvd.

Detectives learned from witnesses that DUDLEY had been renting a room to the victims but wanted them to leave and had been fighting with them.

Detectives were able to gain a search warrant for 16466 Ambaum Blvd So. and it was served on 8-19-20. During the service of the warrant CSI detectives found bullet holes, bullet strikes, spent rounds and blood was found in the “blue” room.”

Detectives also interviewed neighbors that told them they had called 911 on 6/9/20 (20 days before their bodies were found) because they heard gunfire from inside the house and a male yelling, “please don’t do this, just let me leave.” Burien Police responded but got no response when they went to the residence.

A witness told detectives that she had come to the residence on 6/9/20 in the late evening hours. She stated she had seen an outline figure of a person under a pile of clothes with a bloody arm sticking out of it in the “blue room”. She told detectives that DUDLEY then asked her to leave because he had to “clean up his mess”. When she returned to the house, she asked him what had happened and he told her that “his gun worked and his didn’t.”

DUDLEY was interviewed and told detectives that the victims stayed with him during the COVID quarantine period. He stated it was just the three of them. He admitted that the victims did stay in the “blue room” at his house.”

He had charged them 1500.00 a month in rent, but they were not able to pay it. He admitted to having arguments with the victims. He stated that he owned a 9mm handgun and it was in his vehicle that we arrested him in.

When asked about the blood found in the “blue room” he said Jessica had cut herself before and when asked if the blood was hers, he stated he didn’t know. He could not explain the bullets or the bullet holes in the blue room. It was also obvious that the room had recently been painted and cleaned.

Jessica’s Aunt posted on a GofundMe page she set up saying, “I believe they got the monster who did this to them. Please continue to pray for their conviction in a court of law. That justice will be served. And I want to thank the Seattle Police Department and all their help finally being able to get this guy and anybody else involved. In the midst of their Police Chief resigning over the lack of support from the Seattle City council, to the protests and defending of their department -through all of that they never wavered on their professionalism and promised to help our family in any way they could. God bless them for being diligent through all of that and helping us finally be able to sleep at night.”

Marlys Gordon, an ex girlfriend of Michael Dudley told King5 News that he had a violent past. The two dated on and off between 2002-2016.

His bail has been set at $5 million, but he has not been formally charged yet.

Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce

In early 2015, a black suitcase was abandoned alongside the Karoonda Highway, near the tiny town of Wynarka (population 76) in South Australia.  It remained there for awhile before anyone bothered to look inside it – the suitcase was even captured on dashcam footage.

A passerby finally called police in July 2015 after they opened the suitcase and found what they suspected to be human remains inside. 

Initial investigation showed that the remains belonged to a young female child.  Some belongings were also in the suitcase with the bones.

Police released some images of what was in the suitcase, in an effort to help identify the child.  You can see a black tutu dress along with some pink shoes.  A pink striped dress was also found.  

Interestingly more and more people began to come forward with dash cam footage of the suitcase, as it lay on the side of the highway.  In some of the vision, it is clear the suitcase has been moved. Police came out and said the suitcase had been looked through and moved on occasions before they were finally notified.

Witness reports initially placed an unidentified man in his 60’s in Wynarka with a large dark suitcase on both April 13 and May 26 of 2015 and police appealed at the time for help to identify him.  

In October 2015, three months after the child’s remains were found, police got the break they were looking for.  On October 8, a call was made to CrimeStoppers  and the caller Tanya Webber “nominated Khandalyce Kiara Pearce as possibly being the little girl in the suitcase”.

The caller said they had taken a photo of Khandalyce and her mother Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson at the Marion Shopping Centre in Adelaide in November 2008.  Khandalyce had been wearing a pink dress in the photo.  The dress proved to be identical to the one found in the suitcase in Wynarka in 2015.

‘It wasn’t until they released some clothing and for some reason it got my interest again, and my husband walked through the door and I said ‘this could be Khandles’ with tears in my eyes,’ Tanya said.  

Police started to look into the whereabouts of Khandalyce’s mother, Karlie.  Karlie was a single mother and had moved away from her family in the Northern Territory of Australia with Khandalyce between 2006 and 2008, intending to travel and work.  The last documented sighting of the pair was on November 8, 2008.  Karlie was last seen driving a car with Khandalyce on the Stuart Highway near Coober Pedy on that date.  Karlie was 20 years old at the time and Khandalyce was 2.

Karlie’s family did attempt to report the pair missing in 2009.  NSW homicide commander Mick Willing said Karlie’s mother withdrew her missing person’s report on September 10, 2009, “after she was reassured that Karlie was safe and well, but did not want family contact at that time”.

Police were told that, sporadically, Karlie was in contact with her mother but the contact became less frequent over time and sadly Karlie’s mum has since passed away.

“Even after this time, the extended family believed Karlie and Khandalyce were living interstate and were safe and well.”

Police conducted forensic and DNA testing on Khandalyce’s remains.  In an unexpected twist, they were able to link the child to a set of remains found in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales – Wynarka is around a 12 hour drive from this forest (around 1200 miles). 

Sketch of the remains found in the Belanglo Forest

The remains had been found in August 2010 and remained unidentified up to 2015.  At the time, Police released a sketch of the woman and said that she was likely aged between 13 and 25.  They said she had been murdered sometime between 2000-2010.  

Police also released an artist’s impression of a T-shirt which was found near the bones. The T-shirt carried a distinct motif featuring the word “Angelic” in pink text, a rose, and a heart with angel wings.

If Belanglo State Forest (where these remains were found) sounds familiar to you, it’s for good reason.  Australia’s most prolific serial killer Ivan Milat used the forest as a dumping ground for his victims.   Milat committed the murders between 1989 and 1993 and the bodies of seven backpackers were discovered in the forest.  He was sentenced to seven life sentences for their deaths and he died in prison in 2019.  Many people believe that Ivan Milat committed many more murders and that many of his victims are still undiscovered.

When the remains were found in Belanglo in 2010, many speculated that they may have been related to the Milat killings but this was never able to be proven. 

Following the DNA testing, police began to investigate the link between Khandalyce and the Belanglo remains.  They soon realized that the remains belonged to Karlie, Khandalyce’s mother.

So, how did the two die?  And how did their bodies come to be so unceremoniously dumped thousands of miles from each other?

Police began to investigate Karlie’s last confirmed movements.  They found that on December 14, 2008, Karlie had been seen with a man named Daniel Holdom at Charnwood in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).  Karlie, Daniel and Khandalyce had been living with roommates at the time.  These roommates said the two got into an argument and they left in Karlie’s vehicle (presumably leaving the child with the roommates). Holdom returned alone to the Charnwood property after being gone for about 14 to 17 hours.  The phones of both Karlie and Daniel were tracked that day, travelling from the ACT to the Belanglo Forest.

It is then alleged Daniel cleaned Karlie’s car, sold it and obtained another car which he drove to Wagga Wagga, purchasing duct tape and a dishcloth, before checking into a motel with a child – Khandalyce.  He told his roommates that he was going to return Khandalyce to her paternal grandmother.

When he left the motel the next day and started the drive to South Australia, he was seen to be alone.  

Police investigation discovered that when Karlie and Daniel arrived at the Belanglo State Forest, he forced her to the ground before stepping on her throat and crushing her windpipe.  He then dumped her body in the bush.

When Khandalyce’s body was found in the suitcase, she had two pieces of dishwashing cloth inside her mouth, while duct tape was wrapped around her head.  She also had a disposable nappy (diaper) and a towel around her head.  

A towel, having the same batch number as those used at the motel, was found with other items near Khandalyce’s remains.

Following Karlie’s death, Daniel used her credit card for years, during which time numerous benefit payments continued and $71,770 was debited from her account.

Police also found that Daniel used Karlie’s phone to make false contact with her family in 2009, which led to them dropping the missing person report.  

Hazel Passmore, a former partner of Daniel Holdom’s came forward and said that she had found an SD card with images on it.  He kept ‘ trophy photographs’ of Karlie’s body and it showed that he had used foreign objects to sexually assault her at the time she died.  

Hazel Passmore

In the images on the photo card, police matched the setting to the crime scene where Karlie’s remains were found. They also compared a t-shirt depicted in the photos, to the ‘Angelic’ image that we mentioned earlier.

Hazel told officers she confronted Daniel after finding Karlie’s pension and Medicare card, as well as Khandalyce’s birth certificate in his car.

She said she believed Holdom had struck up a secret relationship.

‘I was yelling and screaming “What the f— is this s—?”… I was going off my nut and he pulled me inside, literally by the scruff of the neck.’

‘He threw the chair… he starts shaking me and he’s like, “She’s disappeared, she’s gone, she’s gone.” And I’m like, “What do you mean she’s gone?” And he like, “She’s dead, she’s dead”,’ she told officers. 

It also emerged that in 2008, just before the deaths of Karlie and Khandalyce, Hazel Passmore and her two children had been involved in an auto accident with Daniel.  Daniel was responsible for the incident which left both of Hazel’s children dead, and left Hazel confined to a wheelchair.  

A notebook belonging to Daniel was also discovered, which contained a sordid list of children’s names and ages, separately identified alongside words such as “rape”, “forced” and “consent”.

During Daniel’s trial in 2018,  evidence presented to the court said there was a “sexual motive in the murder” of the toddler and that “the offender was at least attempting to, or planning to, sexually assault [her] at the time of her death.”

It said the crown could not forensically prove the extent to which the sexual assault was completed “due to the deteriorated state” of the remains when found.

The court was told at the time that Karlie’s murder was motivated by many factors, including “to gain access to her young daughter Khandalyce, in whom [he] had already expressed a sexual interest”, and financial gain, by gaining accessed to the young mother’s welfare benefits and her financial accounts.

Along with causing the deaths of Hazel Passmore’s two children, AND the murders of Karlie and Khandalyce, in 1999, Daniel was convicted after he snuck into a woman’s room and attempted to suffocate her with duct tape and a pillow.  

A victim impact statement was read in court on behalf of Karlie’s father, Bruce.  

“I have never hated anyone the way that I hate you,” the statement, directed at Holdom, said.

“The thoughts of what the girls went through, the anger I feel turns to physical pain … it hurts to breathe. I would like to see the death penalty for you, but even that would not be enough.”

On November 9, 2018, Daniel Holdom was given two life sentences in prison for the murders of Karlie and Khandalyce.

Justice Robert Allan Hulme said at the time “His treatment of her (Karlie) showed complete disdain for her existence as a human being,” Hulme said, labelling it a murder of “extreme gravity and appalling depravity”.

“For him, she was just flesh with a life that could be extinguished for his vile pleasure.”

Hulme then described Holdom’s killing of the “completely defenceless two-year-old” girl as “despicable”.

Hulme finished by saying “The offender, for at least for the foreseeable future, represents a danger to society.”

Read more – ‘Body in suitcase’ accused took trophy photos, court told

Girl in suitcase identified as Khandalyce Kiara Pearce; mother Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson found in Belanglo State Forest

Valerie Reyes

Valerie Reyes was 24 years old in February 2019.

Lohud did a write up on Valerie which gives you an idea of the person that she was:

“Valerie Reyes had the  soul of an artist and the work ethic of a CEO. Her mom, Norma Sanchez, and best friend, Geoffrey Anderson, said she was a homebody who loved to read and engage in creative activities.  

She lugged books to coffee shops. She sang in her apartment. She found solace in long walks around Beechmont Lake, and hikes along nature trails. She drew portraits for her friends and dreamed of becoming a tattoo artist, like her brother.

She harnessed her creativity to fight bouts of depression and anxiety. And she cherished Sundays, when her family, including her mother, older brother and two younger brothers hung out and caught up with one another’s lives.”

Valerie was reported missing to the New Rochelle Police Department by her family on the morning of January 30th, after she didn’t show up to work at Barnes & Noble the day prior and no one had heard from her for 2 days.

Her iPhone, iPad, some of her clothes and her bedsheets were missing – which prompted people to wonder if she had run away. Most people saw the bed sheets as a red flag.

Valerie’s missing person flyer mentioned she struggled with anxiety & depression.

In an interview with LoHud, Valerie’s mother (Norma Sanchez) said the night before she went missing Valerie was “very scared, very frightened.” and “She didn’t mention anything or no one specific. She just said ‘I’m scared. I’m paranoid, mommy. I’m getting anxiety attacks.’ She was having a hard time talking.”

Her mother said, “I asked her ‘why do you feel this way? Was there someone at your house?’ I asked about her ex-boyfriend and she said, “No.” Her mother also said Valerie told her she was “afraid someone was going to murder her.”

There was a point where a lot of people were suspicious of her recent ex-boyfriend, Justin Orda. The two had broken up recently and he was active on social media about her disappearance. People thought he was making comments about her mental health and making it seem like she may have ran away. (Username: Jus_esq)

A private investigator hired by the family noted that someone attempted to withdraw a large sum of money from her account twice between 2am & 5am – once via a Chase ATM in Midtown Manhattan.

At the time, police said, it was unclear if the person was Valerie or someone else.

On the morning of Feb. 5, 2019, in Greenwich, CT – Public works employees that were working on Glenville Road found a red suitcase 15 feet from the road in the woods. The suitcase contained human remains. (15 miles from New Rochelle)

According to Greenwich PD, “The victim was found at the scene inside a suitcase with her hands and feet bound.”

The victim was eventually identified as Valerie and her COD was listed as homicidal asphyxiation.

“The Greenwich Police Department is dedicated to identifying those responsible for the death of Valerie and ensuring justice for her and her family. We continue to work with New Rochelle Police and other law enforcement agencies at multiple levels and have engaged a variety of resources to assist in the investigation.” – Greenwich PD

After her body was found, a forensics team and detective cars were seen at Valerie’s apartment.

It also came out that James Clifford, one of the town employees who found her remains, took photos of her body in the suitcase.

Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said – “It’s an egregious lack of judgment and sensitivity to the situation. That’s someone’s wife, daughter, sister. To have done something like that shows a disregard for the decedent and their loved ones. It really is unconscionable.”

James Clifford was demoted from his position as foreman of the Department of Public Works for six months, suspended without pay for five days, and lost five vacation days. He was also required to complete sensitivity training.

James Clifford will not face criminal charges for taking photos. His attorney said his actions were an “error in judgment,” but there was no ill will or bad intention.

On Feb. 12, 2019 –  police arrested 24 year old Javier de Silva in Queens, NY, on a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death (username: @igotavisual / Facebook URL – JavierMajestic)

The following day he was interviewed at the New Rochelle Police Department. He waived his Miranda Rights and stated that on or about January 29, 2019 he had sex with Valerie at her home. He said at some point, Valerie fell to the floor and hit her head. He indicated that he placed packing tape over her mouth, bound her legs and hands and put her in a suitcase. He then said that he placed the suitcase in his car and drove away. After driving for some time, he placed the suitcase in the woods.

He was an ex-boyfriend of Valerie’s but not the same ex-boyfriend everyone was suspicious of. According to her family, Valerie dated Javier a year prior.

Javier was suspected of fraudulently using Valerie’s ATM card.

According to the criminal complaint:

It said Javier “kidnapped a woman, Valerie Reyes (the victim), in New Rochelle, N.Y., bound her feet and hands, placed packing tape over her mouth, put her in a suitcase, and transported her to Greenwich, C.T., where he disposed of her body resulting in the death of the victim.” So, it seems she was alive when he put her in the suitcase.

It also said “Upon inspecting the suitcase, law enforcement officers found a deceased female in her 20-30s with shoulder length black hair. The female was barefoot with an unbuttoned shirt and denim jeans. She was bound at the feet and knees, and her hands were bound behind her back with what appeared to be white twice and packing tape. There was also packing tape over her mouth and chin. There were obvious signs of head trauma including bruising around the face and a large hematoma to the deceased femal’s forehead. At the time law enforcement discovered the body, the deceased female was in the early stages of decomposition.”

The Investigation: In regards to her bank account it said based on the investigators review of surveillance footage, they knew that “on or about January 29, 2019 at approximately 5am, a black Honda CR-V pulled up toward Bank Branch-1 and parked across the street in a neighboring parking lot. An individual exited the vehicle, crossed the street and entered the bank vestibule. The individual, who appeared to be male, wore a black hooded sweatshirt over his head, dark pants, and black sneakers with white soles. The individual then exited the bank, entered the Honda and drove westward.”

Police traced the vehicle to a ride sharing company and upon contacting them, they learned the car was being used by Javier.

From there, they used surveillance from where Javier lived and saw “he left at 10:50pm on 01/28 wearing a black hooded sweatshirt over his head, dark pants, and the same shoes – matching the person who attempted to access Valerie’s bank account. He returned to his condo around 9:43am the next morning. He was wearing a long tan coat and carrying a duffel bag, before leaving again several minutes later.”

While searching Valerie’s apartment, they found a drawing of Javier which matched Javier’s instagram profile photo.

Valerie’s mother recalled Valerie drawing the portrait of the suspect while the two were dating. She said they dated for about 8 months.

Her father tore apart the portrait in disgust when he learned what happened.

Her mother remembered Valerie ‘taking pity’ on Javier when he told her his mother was dying of cancer. Her mother said, “she said ‘Mami, his mother has cancer and I want to support him.’ She was an angel like that.” She remembered Javier was “really pushy, wouldn’t take no for an answer and my daughter started getting frustrated with him and ended it.”

Kiersten found a post of his on a NYC Rent/ Buy/ Sell Facebook group that said “I am renting a large shared room (preferably to a woman) in a two bedroom apartment, the room is not furnished. You will have access to the kitchen and living room. We are friendly people. 420 friendly. The area is quiet, three blocks from 7 subway, delis open 24 hours shopping centers and all kinds of shops nearby.”

On 2/16, Javier then went on to do a 45 minute jailhouse interview with the New York Post where he cried uncontrollably and apologized repeatedly. He insisted he tried to revive her before putting her in a suitcase.

Valerie Reyes’ alleged killer: ‘I put her in the suitcase and ran’

Highlights from this interview:

  • “I didn’t know what to do.”
  • “ I dont know what happened. I didn’t mean to do it.”
  • “I’m a bad person. I did something wrong. I didn’t call the police.” “I thought they would blame me”
  • He was asked how she died and he said “She fell. We fell together.” The interviewer asked if she fell off the bed and he nodded.
  • He claimed he took cash out of her account because he wanted to get caught.

A year to the day that Valerie’s body was found, Javier entered a guilty plea – February 5, 2020. He is facing 30 years to life in prison on a federal charge of kidnapping.

New details were also released at this time. Federal prosecutors said Da Silva switched his cell phone to “airplane mode” before he entered Valerie’s residence.

After covering her mouth with tape and putting her in the suitcase, he turned to stealing her money and belongings. He used her debit card to make $5,350 in withdrawals. And remember the iPad that was missing? He sold it following her death.

“As he admitted today in court, Javier Da Silva committed a horrid kidnapping that resulted in the tragic death of Valerie Reyes, a young woman with her entire adult life ahead of her. Thanks to the excellent work of the FBI and our local law enforcement partners, Da Silva is now facing serious consequences,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

He was to be sentenced May 21, but due to Coronavirus his sentencing was pushed back to August 5th and then again to November 4th, 2020.

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