SAN DIEGO -- A man has been found guilty of murder in the killing of a woman he met at a downtown hotel last year where they were both staying.
A jury found Jason Bradwell Lewis, 41, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Jhordann Reann Rust of Wisconsin, whose body was found by hotel employees on Dec. 15, 2015. He faces 56 years to life in prison when sentenced.
Prosecutors told the jury that Rust and her boyfriend, Cory Nowell, checked into the West Hotel on Broadway near Columbia Street on Dec. 12. Nowell was arrested and jailed for an alleged domestic violence incident that same day, prosecutors said.
On Dec. 13, Rust used her boyfriend's cell phone to call her mother in Wisconsin. During that call, the mother heard a struggle and could tell her daughter was being attacked.
Rust’s mother testified that her daughter sounded "scared" on the phone moments before the older woman heard a struggle and the line going dead. The mother said she called San Diego police, telling a dispatcher that her daughter was being attacked.
"Literally, someone is beating the hell out of her," the mother told police.
Nowell was released from jail on Dec. 14, but he didn't find Rust in their room, prosecutors said.
Rust's body was found later in a communal bathroom of the hotel. On Dec. 15, just after midnight, employees of the hotel called 911 after discovering her body in a second-floor communal bathroom area. Lewis' fingerprint was found near where Rust's body was found.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel told a jury that the victim's body had been moved and dumped in the bathroom area. The prosecutor said Lewis at some point bought a large suitcase.
Inside a nearby trash can, officers found Nowell's cellphone and a blood-stained mattress pad and some of the victim's clothing, Vasel said.
Vasel said Rust and Nowell lived a transient lifestyle and came to San Diego with hope, but left in despair.
Lewis' attorney said his client was not guilty.