More than eight years ago, an engineer newly arrived from India was found raped and strangled in her Redmond apartment. On Tuesday, a King County jury heard opening statements in the trial of Emanuel Fair, a sex offender who is charged with first-degree murder.
Arpana Jinaga, a 24-year-old software-quality engineer from India, was building a circle of friends, exploring the region on her motorcycle and reveling in the freedoms afforded her as a professional woman in the United States when she was raped and strangled in her Redmond apartment in fall 2008, eight months after she arrived in the Pacific Northwest, a King County jury heard Tuesday.
More than eight years later, the first-degree-murder trial of Emanuel Fair opened with jurors hearing how Jinaga’s body was doused with bleach, toilet-bowl cleaner and motor oil and her bedding and clothes were torched or flushed with water, all in an effort to destroy DNA evidence.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Erin Ehlert said during her opening statement that Fair’s DNA was found in places only Jinaga’s killer would have touched.
Defense attorney Paul Vernon countered by telling jurors that DNA belonging to four other men was found on key pieces of evidence, including a shoelace that is the presumed murder weapon.
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Jurors, however, are barred from hearing about Fair’s prior convictions for raping a 15-year-old girl and twice failing to register as a sex offender.
Fair, now 33, was spending the weekend with a friend at the Valley View Apartments, where Jinaga lived in a third-floor unit, Ehlert said.
Jinaga and a handful of other tenants threw a Halloween party, with guests moving between their apartments that Friday night.
It is believed Jinaga died around 8 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2008, after Fair broke through her locked door, pummeled her face and head, sexually assaulted her and then strangled her, Ehlert said. Jinaga’s body wasn’t discovered until that Monday, when a friend of Jinaga’s father went to check on her after she failed to answer calls from her family back in India, she said.
The neighbor would initially become a prime suspect in Jinaga’s homicide and his DNA was found on a bottle of motor oil later recovered from a trash bin in the parking lot, Ehlert said.
Weeks later, police discovered Fair had also been at the party and spent time with Jinaga’s neighbor — and his DNA was found mixed with Jinaga’s blood on her bathrobe found in the same trash bin, as well as on Jinaga’s neck and a length of tape that was used to gag her with her underwear, Ehlert told jurors.
“We will never know all the horrors Arpana suffered … but we know the end of her life was filled with horror,” Ehlert said. Fair, she said, “took the time to slowly and methodically clean up. He did everything he could to remove his DNA, he did everything he could to erase himself.”
In the defense’s opening statement, Vernon repeatedly told jurors Fair was not guilty of killing Jinaga.
“The state will ask you to ignore evidence someone else committed this murder,” he said.
Vernon criticized the police investigation as flawed and said detectives were so confused by the case that they hired a psychic in an attempt to ask Jinaga who killed her.
He said that after Jinaga’s death, her neighbor drove to Canada but was turned away at the border because he didn’t have his passport. He then went to a friend’s house in Everett, where he wrestled another man in an apparent attempt to fake an injury he’d actually received during the assault on Jinaga, Vernon said.
The neighbor “did exactly what a guilty person would do,” while Fair helped clean up after the party and spent that Sunday watching football, Vernon said.
The Seattle Times is not naming the neighbor because he has not been charged with a crime.
He claimed there were innocent explanations for the presence of his client’s DNA at the homicide scene.