The Burien landlord of a couple who was shot, beaten and dismembered in the Seattle suitcase murders has been charged with two counts of murder.
Police arrested Michael Lee Dudley, 62, at his Burien residence on Aug. 19. Dudley has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder and is being held on $5 million bail for the deaths of a Federal Way woman and Kent man in June.
Dudley also has prior criminal history including a felony drug conviction, vehicle thef and a DUI conviction, according to Aug. 24 charging documents.
While the case is still under active investigation and additional charges may follow, the charging documents state “the defendant, likely with the aid of others, dismembered the two victims after he killed them, separated their bodies in multiple bags and suitcases and tried to hide them in different bodies of water.”
The bodies were identified as 35-year-old Jessica Lewis, who died on or about June 10 from multiple gunshot wounds. The second body was identified as 27-year-old Austin Wenner, who died on or about June 9 from a gunshot wound to the torso. Both of the deaths have been ruled as homicides by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The two victims, who were in a long-term relationship, had been renting a room from Michael Dudley at his home along Ambaum Road in Burien since December 2019, according to documents. Lewis was a Federal Way resident and Wenner was a Kent resident.
Motive for the killings is not yet fully known, but charging documents said evidence shows the defendant was angry with the victims for not paying rent and for bringing potential criminal activity to the home.
“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,” documents state. “The atrocities inflicted on the bodies of the victims after their murder has greatly increased the anguish and suffering of their families.”
Dudley’s arraignment, where he’s expected to enter a plea, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 8 at the King County Courthouse.
According to the charging documents:
Around 4 p.m. June 19, Seattle police and Seattle firefighters recovered several trash bags and suitcases containing human remains that were located in the water near the 1100 block of Alki Avenue SW. The agencies initially responded to the area for reports of a suspicious suitcase that had washed up on the beach.
Upon a search of the area, officers saw trash bags containing body parts floating in the water.
On June 22, King County sheriff’s deputies discovered another suitcase with human remains, later to be confirmed as one of the victims, near the 10000 block of West Marginal Place near the Seattle City Light power substation.
King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined “the victims had been beaten and shot prior to being dismembered,” according to a probable cause document. The medical examiner’s office reported there may have been multiple people involved in the homicide because of how the victims had been dismembered.
Witness interviews led police to Dudley. One witness reported Lewis and Wenner had said the homeowner (Dudley) was “kind of crazy.”
Another witness, who was friends with Dudley and did not know Lewis or Wenner, said she moved her belongings into Dudley’s residence on June 9. Dudley appeared to have “defensive wounds” on his body. The witness then took a shower and opened the door to the upstairs bedroom she would be staying in.
The witness told police in the middle of the room was “‘heaps of clothing’ but she could see the figure of a person under there with a bloody hand sticking out of the clothes,” documents said. The witness told Dudley what she had seen and made a joke out of fear, and Dudley then laughed.
Later that night, Dudley asked her if there was some place else she could go as he needed to “clean up the mess,” documents said. The witness then left the residence.
A search warrant for the Burien home was served on Aug. 19 and detectives found bullet holes, bullet strikes, spent rounds and blood in the “blue room” where Wenner and Lewis had been staying, documents said.
While serving the warrant, neighbors contacted detectives and said they had called 911 to report hearing gunfire from within the house on June 9. They alleged also hearing a man yelling “please don’t do this, just let me leave.”
Records show Burien police had responded to the house around 7:15 p.m. June 9, but left the residence a short time later when nobody answered the door.
Dudley told police he was charging Lewis and Wenner $1,500 for rent, but they were not able to pay it. He also said he did get into arguments with the victims, but denied having been involved in the death of the victims.
Police also said it was obvious the “blue room” had recently been painted and cleaned.
This Friday, Aug. 28, would have been Jessica Lewis’s 36th birthday.
Family members of the deceased are still devastated at the entire situation, Gina Jaschke told the Federal Way Mirror.
“Nothing will bring Jessica and Austin back. And they certainly didn’t deserve their lives to be taken so young,” said Jaschke, Lewis’s aunt. “How their bodies were treated after death is incomprehensible. We are afraid the motives are far more sinister the owing somebody $1,500 for rent.”
Jessica Lewis’s husband Shawn Lewis, who she has been separated from for more than a decade, said the communities who knew Lewis are blown away by the gruesome murder.
“Jessica was a beautiful soul and a one of a kind woman. “[She] will always be cherished and truly loved and missed.”