Landlord found guilty of murdering tenants, placing bodies into suitcases

In June 2020, suitcases were found along West Seattle shorelines containing human remains of two people who were renting a room from Michael Lee Dudley.

A Burien landlord accused of killing two tenants and placing their dismembered bodies into suitcases in June 2020 was found guilty of murder on Thursday, Dec. 8.

Michael Lee Dudley, 64, was found guilty of four counts of second-degree murder, according to King County Superior Court documents. The jury also found Dudley guilty of being armed with a gun at the time of the murders. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

The bodies of the tenants, who were in a long-term relationship together, were found along Alki in West Seattle after Dudley attempted to rid of the suitcases in two different waterways.

The bodies were identified in 2020 as Jessica Lewis, 35, of Federal Way, and Austin Wenner, 27, of Kent.

“We are so relieved and happy that justice was served,” said Gina Jaschke, Lewis’s aunt, on Dec. 8 on behalf of the families. “Our families have grown closer together, where tragedy sometimes rips them apart. … I am just thankful Michael Dudley’s reign of preying on those less fortunate has come to an end.”

Jaschke thanked the Seattle Police Department and Detective Cooper, adding that “they always assured me to trust them. And they did not let us down.”

The two victims had been renting a room from Dudley at his Burien home along Ambaum Road since December 2019, according to documents. Dudley was allegedly angry with the victims over the rent payment, the Mirror previously reported.

Lewis died from multiple gunshot wounds and Wenner died from a gunshot wound to the torso, both on or about June 9, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Medical examiners determined “the victims had been beaten and shot prior to being dismembered,” according to court documents. The medical examiner’s office reported there may have been multiple people involved in the homicide because of how the victims had been dismembered. Their bodies were found separated into plastic bags in suitcases and dumped along waterways in West Seattle.

On June 19, 2020, Seattle police and Seattle firefighters recovered several trash bags and suitcases containing human remains found 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.

Three days later, King County sheriff’s deputies discovered another suitcase with human remains near the 1000 block of West Marginal Place near the Seattle City Light power substation.

A search warrant for the Burien home was served on Aug. 19, 2020, and detectives found bullet holes, bullet strikes, spent rounds and blood in the “blue room” where Wenner and Lewis had been staying, documents said. Dudley could not explain to investigators how the bullet damage occurred.

Lewis, a mother of four, had worked alongside her grandmother as a caregiver for developmentally disabled and hospice care patients at an adult family home in Kirkland, said Gina Jaschke, Lewis’s aunt. Wenner was described by his family as a country boy who loved the outdoors.

Jaschke said, “Jessica’s children are thankful this monster can no longer hurt anybody else.”