SAN DIEGO (KGTV/AP) - A San Diego man is set to be extradited to Australia this week after authorities in that country say he is the suspect in a murder case that has made national headlines.
The Associated Press, citing a federal search warrant filed by the FBI last week, reported Alex Dion is accused in the 2018 death of 33-year-old Wachira “Mario” Phetmang.
Last September, Australian authorities identified the 38-year-old Dion as the suspect in Phetmang’s death and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Dion, the AP reported, was already in custody in San Diego on an unrelated domestic violence charge.
According to New South Wales police investigators, Phetmang’s body was found on the side of a road on the evening of June 6, 2018. His body was “wrapped in a plastic material and covered with a mattress protector,” NSW officials said.
Phetmang, a Thai national who lived in Australia for a decade, was last seen alive on May 25, 2018, at a gas station in the Sydney suburb of South Hurstville. An autopsy found that he suffered more than 20 wounds to his head and had multiple skull fractures.
The day he died, Phetmang told his partner he was going to pick up methamphetamine and later met Dion at the gas station, according to surveillance footage, the search warrant said.
Phetmang and Dion left the gas station together in Dion's car, according to the surveillance footage, and that was the last anyone saw of Phetmang.
Dion flew back to the U.S. two days after Phetmang's death but before the body was found on June 6, according to the search warrant.
A boot police believe belonged to Dion was found with Phetmang's body, and the matching boot was later found in Dion's apartment, the search warrant said. Police also believe Dion used a high-pressure washer to scrub the inside of his car, and dumped both his and Phetmang's clothing, two tire irons and a metal bar inside a water-retention tank where he used to work.
When Australian police held a news conference seeking the public's help in the case, Dion called them and tried to blame an associate for Phetmang's killing, while also acknowledging that he had Phetmang's credit cards and cellphones with him in San Diego, according to the search warrant.
Dion told police that he had met Phetmang at the gas station to buy meth but that he left when their associate showed up, a story police say is contradicted by surveillance footage.
Dion's ex-wife in San Diego, the mother of two of his children, told 10News she had been married to him for five years before they eventually divorced.
She said that Dion moved to Australia following the divorce to work as a chef with his brother.
She described Dion as a man with a "big heart" and doesn't think he is capable of doing what he's being charged with.