This post is an update on a previous one, find the original here.
In June 2020, the body of Jessica Lewis, mother of four, was found inside a suitcase washed up on the beach by some teenagers shooting a TikTok video, upon arrival, the police found a second suitcase with Austin Wenner inside. The couple had been in a long-term relationship for around eight years and the family were devastated by their deaths.
Following an investigation into the deaths, police have now arrested the couples’ landlord, Michael Lee Dudley (62), and charged him with two counts of second-degree murder. Lewis and Wenner rented a room from Dudley in his home and prior to their deaths, it seems there had been a disagreement around the rent, they had been unable to pay the $1,500 monthly rent they owed. Dudley was also unhappy with the couple allegedly bringing ‘criminal activity’ into the house. The charging document reads:
“While the precise motive for this crime is not yet fully known, the evidence to date shows that the defendant was angry with the victims for not paying rent and for bringing potential criminal activity to the Ambaum home. The defendant, likely with the aid of others, dismembered the two victims after he killed them, separated their bodies into multiple bags and suitcases and tried to hide them in different bodies of water. This process would have taken a lot of time and effort and his willingness to take these extreme steps demonstrates the threat he poses to the community.”
With a search warrant, the police searched the house and discovered blood, bullet holes, and said “it was obvious the room had recently been painted and cleaned” (kiro7.com). In an interview, Dudley claimed that Lewis had cut herself accidentally and that was the source of the blood, but was unable to explain the bullet holes. It was after this interview he was arrested.
Lewis’ aunt, Gina Jaschke, who was very close to her niece, relates what it was like for the couple living with Dudley, “Sometimes he would break their car so they couldn’t leave … He put trackers on people’s cars. Anytime he ever got in a dispute with anybody he would tell them to leave but try to lock them in the house” (lawandcrime.com). Despite their landlord’s behaviour, they had “nowhere to go” and so stayed in the house.
Jaschke also says she doesn’t want their murder to be their legacy: “I want them to be remembered for their humanity and their kindness.”
Dudley has pleaded not-guilty and his bail is set to $5 million. The police are keeping an open mind as to whether someone else was involved.