Suspect pleads not guilty in suitcase killing

Posted at 2:35 PM, Apr 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-13 00:19:44-04

A man accused of beating and strangling a female co-worker, then stuffing her body into a suitcase that was thrown out with the trash at a downtown San Diego hotel, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge.

Joshua Matthew Palmer, 33, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted in the death of 21-year-old Shauna Haynes.

RELATED: Arrest made after woman's body found in suitcase

Judge David Szumowski ordered the defendant held on $2 million bail.

Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle told the judge that Palmer is accused of beating and strangling Haynes after the two returned to the Chadwick Hotel after a night out.

The prosecutor alleged that Palmer -- a platonic friend of the victim who also worked with her at the downtown Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant -- stuffed Haynes' body into a suitcase and threw it out with the garbage.

Palmer -- who was staying at the hotel -- then made efforts to conceal the crime by sending false text messages to family and friends and cleaning up the crime scene, Doyle alleged.

"He's an extreme danger to the public," Doyle told the judge during Palmer's arraignment.

RELATED: Body found in suitcase near downtown San Diego hotel

Palmer's attorney agreed with the bail amount, but emphasized he has no significant criminal history, other than a misdemeanor DUI in Orange County.

Last Wednesday morning, a guest at the hotel in the 600 block of A Street found the suitcase containing the San Diego woman's body near a row of trash cans alongside a parking area at the rear of the three-story building, Lt. Ray Valentin said.

Noticing what appeared to be hair protruding from a zipper on the case, the man made an emergency call. Patrol officers confirmed the death, then called in a homicide team. Palmer was arrested two days later.

A motive for the crime was not disclosed.

Palmer will be back in court April 28 for a status conference and June 13 for a preliminary hearing.

"I didn't sleep for the first couple of days. I couldn't figure out why am I feeling so bad for myself and for everyone. Why am I not doing anything about it?" said the victim's friend Kelsea Lake.

At San Diego State University, where Lake is a student, she spread the word to her classmates about a GoFundMe page she created to help Haynes' family.

"To celebrate her in a way where she'll be remembered, not as the woman in the suitcase, but as the beautiful person that she was," said Lake. "I'll know the family is being taken care of that and I'll have some peace in that."

Lake worked with the victim -- and the suspect -- at the Old Spaghetti Factory downtown.

A company spokesperson says they're now looking at a variety of options to help out Haynes' family.