Man accused in hotel murder faces judge
SAN DIEGO — A man accused of killing a woman at a downtown hotel where they were both staying pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge.
Jason Bradwell Lewis, 40, was ordered held without bail in the death of 26-year-old Jhordann Reann Rust of Wisconsin, whose body was found by hotel employees on Dec. 15.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel told Judge David Szumowski that Rust and her boyfriend checked into the West Hotel on Broadway near Columbia Street on Dec. 12.
The victim’s boyfriend was arrested and jailed for an alleged domestic violence incident that same day, Vasel said.
On Dec. 13, Rust used her boyfriend’s cell phone to call her mother in Wisconsin, according to the prosecutor. During that call, the mother heard a struggle and could tell her daughter was being attacked, Vasel said.
The mother called San Diego police, but officers could not locate Rust, according to the prosecutor.
The victim’s boyfriend was released from jail on Dec. 14, but he didn’t find Rust in their room, Vasel said.
On Dec. 15, just after midnight, employees of the hotel called 911 after discovering her body in a second-floor communal bathroom area, according to the prosecution. Vasel said Lewis’ fingerprint was found near where Rust’s body was found.
Inside a nearby trash can, officers found the boyfriend’s cell phone and a blood-stained mattress pad and some of the victim’s clothing, Vasel said.
Lewis — who was a stranger to the victim — was the last person seen with her before she went missing, the prosecutor said.
In addition, witnesses saw Rust going into Lewis’ room the night of Dec. 12, the prosecutor said.
Blood staining on the mattress in the defendant’s room was consistent with blood found on the mattress pad found in the bathroom trash can, Vasel said.
Police said the legs of the bed in Lewis’ room were damaged, indicating a struggle.
A large suitcase found in the defendant’s room — bought by Lewis on Dec. 14 — had blood inside, meaning the defendant may have used it to move the body, the prosecutor said.
Lewis — who has been to prison for residential burglary and battery with serious bodily injury — faces 56 years to life in prison if convicted.
A status conference is scheduled for Dec. 30.