A 62-year-old man is in custody for the slaying of two people after their remains were found in suitcases on a West Seattle beach in June.
The man was arrested at his Burien residence in the 16000 block of Ambaum Boulevard South around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to probable cause documents from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He was questioned and booked into the King County Jail.
A King County judge on Thursday found probable cause to hold the man on investigation of murder and set his bail at $5 million, said Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for the prosecuting attorney’s office. A charging decision is expected by Monday, he said.
The Seattle Times generally does not name suspects until charges are filed.
The remains were discovered by a group of teens doing a type of scavenger hunt, who filmed the suitcase that had washed up near shore at Duwamish Head on June 19. They opened it while recording for a TikTok post and found plastic bags.
They called police and waited for several hours for officers to arrive. By then the suitcase was on the verge of being towed back to sea by the ebbing tide.
When officers arrived, they found a second suitcase, police said. Authorities have since identified the remains of the two people found inside the bags as 35-year-old Jessica Lewis and 27-year-old Austin Wenner, who had been in a relationship for about eight years, a family member said.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has since ruled their deaths as homicides, and determined Lewis’ cause of death was from multiple gunshot wounds, while Wenner died of a single gunshot wound.
According to the probable cause documents, detectives later learned the suitcases found on the beach belonged to the 62-year-old man, who had been renting a room in his Burien house to the couple.
The man had wanted Wenner and Lewis to move out, witnesses told police, causing a fight among the three. Detectives also learned that a few neighbors had heard gunfire and yelling from inside the house on June 9 — 10 days before the remains were found in West Seattle — documents said. Neighbors called 911, but when Burien police officers responded, they didn’t get a response from the residence.
When police obtained a search warrant for the house, they found bullet holes and blood inside one of the rooms — the “blue room,” documents said.
Police later interviewed the man, and he confirmed Wenner and Lewis had been staying with him in his “blue room” during the state’s quarantine period, but because they couldn’t pay rent, they got into an argument, police said.
According to police, he “could not explain the bullets or the bullet holes” during the interview, and said he didn’t know whose blood was in the room.
About a month after the couple’s bodies were found, their family members told The Seattle Times that Lewis was a “ray of sunshine” and that Wenner had a “big heart.” Both were born and raised in Washington.