A 62-year-old Burien man has been charged with murder after allegedly killing and dismembering a couple who was found in bags on a West Seattle beach in June.
Michael Lee Dudley was charged Monday with two counts of second-degree murder, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He remains jailed in lieu of $5 million bail.
The remains were first discovered by a group of teenagers near Duwamish Head on June 19, police said. They spotted a large suitcase that had washed up near shore and opened it with sticks while recording a TikTok post, according to a report from the Seattle Police Department.
The group told police there was a plastic trash bag inside the suitcase, and though they didn’t know what was inside, they called 911 because it was emitting a “foul” smell, the report said.
When officers arrived, they searched the beach and found a second bag — a duffel with a smaller trash bag inside — 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 told The Seattle Times.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined Lewis’s cause of death was from multiple gunshot wounds, while Wenner died of a single gunshot wound. Both were beaten and shot prior to being dismembered, which most likely occurred around June 9, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Wenner’s and Lewis’s families later told police that the couple had been renting a room in Dudley’s Burien house, located in the 16000 block of Ambaum Boulevard South.
While prosecutors said they haven’t confirmed Dudley’s exact motive, evidence shows he was angry with Wenner and Lewis for not paying rent and “for bringing potential criminal activity to the Ambaum home,” according to charging documents.
Family members told police that Wenner had recently been “assaulted” by some men who showed up at Dudley’s house with guns and beat him and Lewis. One family member told police he didn’t know what prompted the attack, but that it might have been related to “criminal fraud activity.”
A witness, who was moving into Dudley’s Burien home in June, told police Dudley had helped bring her belongings in on the night of June 9. She added that when she saw Dudley, his glasses were broken and he had scratches on him.
After taking a shower that night, the witness told police she opened the door to the upstairs bedroom — the room she was going to be staying in — and saw “heaps of clothing” in the middle of the room, with a hand sticking out from underneath, according to police reports.
Later that night, Dudley told her he needed to “clean up the mess” and asked her if he could take her somewhere else, police said. As she was leaving the house that night, the witness said she saw Dudley laying out large pieces of plastic in the basement.
When she asked Dudley about it, he told her, “Let’s put it this way, his gun misfired and mine didn’t,” police said.
Detectives later obtained a search warrant for the house, which was served last week. During their search, they found bullet holes, bullet strikes, spent rounds and blood in the upstairs room, where Wenner and Lewis were staying, police said.
While detectives were searching the house, some neighbors contacted them, reporting that they had called 911 on June 9 when they heard gunfire and yelling from inside Dudley’s home. Seattle police confirmed Burien officers responded that night, but “left the residence a short time later when nobody answered the door,” according to the police report.
When detectives interviewed Dudley, he denied any involvement in Wenner’s and Lewis’ deaths and “could not explain the bullets or the bullet holes” in the room.
Dudley was arrested at his Burien house last Wednesday evening, when he was questioned and booked into the King County Jail. He’s scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 8 at the King County Courthouse.
Lewis — who was born in Maple Valley — worked at an assisted living facility in Kirkland and a nursing home in Auburn, according to her aunt, Gina Jaschke. She was also a mother of four.
“She was beautiful. A ray of sunshine,” Jaschke told The Seattle Times in July. “She was a very thoughtful person to others.”
While Wenner’s family “wishes to mourn their son in private,” Jaschke said, his mother wrote in a statement that he “had faith, a big heart, (and) loved the outdoors, country music, campfires, trucks, dogs, Jessica and his family.” He was from Kent.
“Nothing will bring Jessica and Austin back,” Lewis’ family said in a statement after Dudley’s charges were announced. “And they certainly didn’t deserve their lives to be taken so young. How their bodies were treated after death is incomprehensible.”
The statement continued, “Our families will forever be haunted by what’s happened. But our love for Jesse will remain even stronger till the end of time.”