Man accused of strangling girl after watching her have sex with group

SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of strangling a female acquaintance after watching her have sex with two other people, then stuffing her body into a suitcase and putting it out with the trash, was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges that could result in the death penalty.

Joshua Matthew Palmer, 32, is accused of murdering 21-year-old Shauna Haynes.

A witness, Chelsea Shea, testified that she had drinks with Palmer at a bar on April 4 and agreed to go back to his room at the Chadwick Hotel on A Street. She and Palmer were having sex when Haynes arrived with a man named Anthony Kern, Shea said.

The witness testified that she, Kern and Haynes eventually had sex together, but Palmer just “stood there,'' then “told us to leave.''

Shea testified that she left with Kern and asked Haynes if she wanted to come along, but Haynes said she wanted to stay with Palmer.

A few hours after the early morning sexual encounter, Palmer called 911, saying his girlfriend was missing, a detective testified. When contacted, Palmer had red knuckles on both his hands, according to the detective.

Police got a search warrant and seized video files from Palmer's cell phone, showing an unconscious Haynes. On one of the videos, Palmer can be heard saying, “OMG. It just turned into a foursome.''

In another clip, Palmer is heard to say, “I'm sorry I love you, but I can't watch you having sex with somebody else. God I'm sorry.''

Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle alleged that Palmer -- who worked with Haynes at the Spaghetti Factory restaurant -- stuffed her body into a suitcase and threw it out with the garbage.

The morning of April 6, a guest at the hotel in the 600 block of A Street found the suitcase containing the victim's body near a row of trash cans alongside a parking area at the rear of the three-story building.

Noticing what appeared to be hair protruding from a zipper on the case, the man made an emergency call. Patrol officers confirmed the death, then called in a homicide team. Palmer was arrested two days later.

Following a two-day preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian found that enough evidence was presented for Palmer to stand trial on a murder charge, with special circumstance allegations of murder during a rape, murder during sodomy and murder during a rape by an instrument, which potentially makes him eligible for the death penalty.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide whether to pursue capital punishment if he's convicted.

A Superior Court arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 22.