SEATTLE - Closing arguments unfolded Tuesday in the double-murder case involving bodies that turned up on Alki Beach inside of suitcases.
Michael Dudley, 64, is accused of murdering Jessica Lewis and her boyfriend Austin Wenne. The two had been tenants living with Dudley inside her Burien home before they disappeared.
The state put on a strong case, despite having no eyewitnesses or science that directly linked Dudley to the crime. Instead, prosecutors relied on a cascade of evidence that points towards Dudley’s involvement—the attorney listing off more than 20 facts that would have to be a coincidence if Dudley were innocent.
Investigators point toward a neighbor who reported gunshots, and a man pleading for his life on June 9, 2020. Burien Police went to the home, but no one was there; Dudley couldn’t explain why he wouldn’t have answered the door that night in a subsequent police interview.
The state used cell phone data to show that the night of the reported shooting, Jessica’s phone stopped sending texts. Dudley, who claimed to be friendly, never reached out again—they similarly used data to show that he was near the vicinity of Alki Beach the day before the grisly discovery of a suitcase with human remains inside.
More evidence was later found along the Duwamish River. It was determined that Lewis was shot at least twice, and that Wenne was shot at least once before their bodies were mutilated and stuffed into bags and suitcases, before being dumped in Puget Sound.
A woman who stayed with Dudley claimed to have seen a bloody hand sticking out of a pile of laundry inside Dudley’s home, though defense attorneys argued she was known to lie and explained a long history of crime.
Dudley sat throughout the closing argument with little movement. His attorneys claimed the man—aged 62 at the time of the murders—wouldn’t have been able to pull off the crime.
They also claimed that detectives failed to prove anything, insinuating that detectives performed shoddy work due to media attention.
The crime was high-profile due to the grisly nature of the crimes, and because of how the bodies were discovered. An individual posted video of the discovery on TikTok, causing the video to spread throughout Seattle and the country like wildfire.
Jurors were shown segments of the initial police interview where Dudley seemed confused when questioned about the discovery of bullets inside his home; he admitted to accidentally discharging a gun inside his home, but denied he’d ever fired the weapon in the room where bullet holes had been repaired and painted over shortly before investigators searched his home.
Family of the victims spent the day listening to the testimony. Gina Jaschke, Lewis’ aunt, told FOX 13 News that it was difficult spending time inside the room with the man she believes killed her niece.
"I’m just hopeful his reign of terror comes to an end," said Jaschke, Lewis’ daughter by her side holding her hand. "I just look at him and I can’t imagine what he’s done to them. It’s hard, really hard."
The case is now in the jurors’ hands. After a long day of closing arguments, the jurors informed the court they wanted to jump right into deliberations, though the court noted they wouldn’t be able to get an up-close look at all the evidence until Wednesday morning.
It’s unclear how long deliberations will last. However, there is some indication that it could take some time; it was noted that at least one juror couldn’t deliberate on Friday, which means there is at least a question whether they’ll turn back a verdict before that day.