Ex-con sentenced in murder of young woman in downtown hotel

Jason Bradwell Lewis

SAN DIEGO — An ex-con who killed a woman at a San Diego hotel where she and her fiance were staying was sentenced Friday to 56 years to life in state prison.

Superior Court Judge Amalia Meza said Jason Bradwell Lewis was a danger to society and had earned his life sentence for the “senseless killing” of 26-year-old Jhordann Rust one year ago.

“You took advantage of a very vulnerable young woman,” the judge told the 41-year-old defendant. “You tried to get away with it.”

Kalin Rust, 22, said her sister would go out of her way to befriend anyone. She lashed out at Lewis for his “evil, demented act.”

Another sister, 23-year-old Morgen Rust, said “love will always be stronger than hate. I believe in love.”

Read More: Ex-con guilty of murdering young woman in downtown hotel

The judge said the quick action of Rust’s mother led to the discovery of her daughter’s body and subsequently to Lewis’ arrest for the Dec. 12, 2015, murder.

Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel said Rust and her fiance, Cory Nowell, were living a transient lifestyle and came to San Diego last December hoping to get a fresh start.

Once in San Diego, the couple checked into the 500 West Hotel and bought alcohol and also looked for marijuana, Vasel said.

A witness called 911, saying he saw Nowell push Rust, and Nowell was taken off to jail, according to the prosecutor.

Rust called her mother, Ann Nielsen, in Wisconsin the night of Dec. 12 and said she was scared and alone. Later that night, Rust was seen with Lewis, who had been staying at the hotel.

Lewis and Rust were seen buying a bottle of wine at a nearby store, and Rust was later seen going into the defendant’s fifth-floor room.

Nielsen testified that her daughter called her and kept her on the phone for two hours, with two males in the background calling Rust names and saying they didn’t want to hear about her boyfriend being arrested.

Rust said one of the men was cool, but she was “terrified” of the other one, according to Nielsen.

“I told her to get the hell out of there,” Nielsen testified.

The mother said she heard a “thud” and heard her daughter say “it hurts.”

“It kept going and going and going,” Nielsen testified.

The mother called San Diego police, telling a dispatcher that her daughter was being attacked. “Literally, someone is beating the hell out of her,” she reported.

Rust’s body was found later, dumped in a second-floor communal bathroom area of the hotel, Vasel said. The prosecutor said Lewis at some point bought a large suitcase and his fingerprint was found on a sink near where the victim was discovered.

Inside a nearby trash can, officers found Nowell’s cell phone and a blood-stained mattress pad and some of the victim’s clothing, Vasel said.

Lewis’ violent criminal history included a battery conviction for punching a 66-year-old male stranger in the face in May 2015. The day before Lewis knocked his girlfriend out at Horton Plaza in a case police never brought to prosecutors, Vasel said.

The defendant has been to prison twice for battery and residential burglary, according to the prosecutor.