Pushing Up Lilies

Lurking in Luggage: The Shadowy Realm of Suitcase Killers

Episode Summary

Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies. I'm Julie Mattson, your host and seasoned forensic death investigator. On today's episode, we delve into the chilling world of crimes where victims meet their tragic end inside suitcases. Join me as I shine a light on the motivations, methods, and psychological profiles of the perpetrators behind these disturbing crimes. From the discovery of the victims to the haunting investigations that ultimately expose the truth, this episode offers a riveting journey into the depths of human depravity. So buckle up and brace yourself for a gripping exploration of the shadowy realm of suitcase killers on Pushing Up Lilies.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 Hey, y'all, I hope everyone had a great Easter and got to celebrate with your family.

0:37 We had a great time around here and have also been trying to dodge bad weather.

0:44 I know that many of you have probably heard about all the recent hail storms in Texas and it missed us twice, which we are so thankful another storm blew through last night and we were threatened with tornadoes and high winds and hail.

1:00 Thank God nothing hit our house.

1:02 But for those of you that were affected, I'm so sorry.

1:07 I know that a lot of people need new roofs right now.

1:09 I have several friends whose car was totaled during the last hailstorm.

1:16 We were in North Dakota when that happened, so we missed it, but our cars made it, but it's been crazy weather and you never know what you're going to get around here, I think 80 degrees yesterday cooled off a little bit last night and then, you know, hail and all the things.

1:32 But I did when I went to bed, I heard that there were some maybe tornadoes in Oklahoma.

1:36 I need to check the news this morning to see if that's true and if anything was destroyed.

1:45 But anyway, been a not so busy week at the medical examiner's office.

1:51 This week I was accepted to go to an infant death investigation training class on a grant in Atlanta, Georgia.

2:02 And that's put on by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.

2:07 I always love the opportunity to get those free trainings for those of you who are interested in this field.

2:14 There are some free trainings that you can get online and I'm going to put together some of those for you because I do get emails from people all the time asking about classes and how to get into forensics.

2:27 And I want to do all I can to help because I just think we need more nurses in this field.

2:34 I'll be going to Atlanta Georgia for the conference, which should be exciting, and they cover all different kinds of things.

2:42 They cover like SIDS and also like drownings and that kind of thing.

2:48 It'll be interesting again, you know, we just always like to learn as much as we can when it comes to investigating to the best of our abilities.

2:58 And will also be going to a conference in Vegas coming up in the middle of the year.

3:06 We do constantly learn; I learn something at work every day probably.

3:11 But I do appreciate the emails people asking about forensic nursing and how to get training and how to get started.

3:20 And I definitely welcome those because I love talking about my field and helping people get started.

3:28 And again, I'm going to put together a list of some trainings for those of you who are interested because I know I have several nurses and just you don't have to be a nurse, you know, to get into this field.

3:39 Like I said, there are people that I work with who have degrees in mortuary science and criminal justice.

3:45 If you have that training under your belt, it definitely helps you get your foot in the door and sometimes it's about knowing the right people also schmooze with your local medical examiner's office and see who you can get to know.

4:00 Some of them offer internships.

4:02 We do not, we get calls very frequently from students at the two local colleges and universities who want to come over.

4:09 But we don't allow that at our office.

4:13 Unfortunately, maybe someday, but it's definitely rewarding.

4:20 And again, I love that every day is new, and I haven't had anything exciting or different or unusual this week.

4:28 So sorry to disappoint you, but I do want to cover some stories and I don't know what made me think of this, but I met someone not too long ago who said that she dated the guy from Wichita Falls who was the suitcase killer.

4:45 And she was telling me about how nice he was and how she never would have suspected that he would have done anything like that.

4:52 But after they broke up, I guess he killed a girl.

4:55 And ironically, she looked a lot like the girl that he killed.

4:59 And so I don't know, I was thinking about that.

5:02 I can't even remember who it was that I talked to.

5:04 So if you're listening, reach out to me and remind me so I can interview you because I know we talked about it that day and I just cannot remember who it was.

5:12 But I got to thinking about it.

5:14 You know, like a lot of people try to hide bodies in suitcases.

5:18 I mean, we hear about it almost every day.

5:20 We've had a case here where someone was killed and stuffed into a duffel bag and thrown into the lake.

5:28 It's just kind of crazy.

5:29 And the sad part is that, you know, a lot of times kids find them, and you know, I'm always hoping that they don't open the bag, but you know, they probably do just because we're all curious, especially kids.

5:46 I mean, what's in the bag anyway.

5:49 I just hate that kids have to find those sometimes because I know it's happened and it happened in the case that we had here, I found some cases where the body was actually discarded in suitcases and it kind of floors me how people think that they can tell the police that.

6:11 Oh, yeah.

6:11 We used to have luggage like that or whatever and they're not going to be suspected of the ones who killed the person, put him in the luggage and threw him in the lake anyway.

6:22 It just surprises me again.

6:24 I love dumb criminals.

6:25 Cuz they're really easy to catch.

6:27 They usually say something that incriminates them.

6:31 It's kind of, I don't know, it's interesting, but you know, killers will store the bodies many times in atoms that are easy to obtain, accessible large enough to hold the body and then easy to transport the body.

6:47 Like what's easier than a suitcase with wheels.

6:51 I mean, if you can get the body in there, it's much easier than rolling somebody up in carpet and dragging them, you know, half a mile down the stairs to the car when you can just put them in a suitcase.

7:02 I feel like that.

7:03 That's one reason that they do that, and they may also try to hide the smell, which you know, most of us know that a suitcase is not going to have the smell of decomposition.

7:14 But again, not everybody's as smart as most of us.

7:19 They try to hide that smell by putting the body in there and it gives them time to come up with an alibi.

7:27 It's also believed that suitcases will delay or limit the arrival of insects.

7:34 And the offspring of large flies and beetles can reach the body through the teeth of the zipper.

7:45 And even small adult flies can get through the zipper and then lay eggs on the remains as they become adults.

7:54 And then at that point, they're large enough that none of them can get out just because they're in a suitcase.

8:01 This is interesting, but it does not prevent them from being affected by insect activity.

8:07 I thought that that was a little bit interesting and of course, killers are going to dismember the body to facilitate disposal or sometimes even had the identity of the person.

8:24 And again, to identify someone by dental records, you have to have an idea of who they are so that you can get that person's dental records and compare.

8:34 But in a case where somebody's been in a suitcase in the water for quite some time, depending on how long they've been there.

8:42 It's unlikely that we're going to get any kind of fingerprints or anything.

8:46 It makes it a little more difficult to identify people again that gives the perpetrator more time to get away because if the person hasn't been reported missing, then they're not being looked at yet as a suspect they can get out of dodge before they get caught.

9:07 I found a story from November of 2022.

9:13 The boyfriend of a 22-year-old woman who was found dismembered in her New York City apartment with her body parts stuffed into two suitcases has been arrested.

9:25 24-year-old Justin Williams was arrested on charges of second degree murder and concealment of a human corpse.

9:34 The remains of his girlfriend, De Asia Johnson, who was only 22 were found in her apartment on Linwood Avenue in East New York on September 21st, after officers were called to her sixth-floor apartment for a welfare check.

9:53 Now, she reportedly came home after work on August 21st of 2022 and then never left the apartment again.

10:02 Now, Williams and Johnson had been dating for several years, I believe he was in and out staying there with her.

10:12 And I think that there was a history of him physically abusing her.

10:19 The people at the apartment complex continued to let him in to see her and that may have or may not have contributed to this actually happening, but he stabbed her nine times on August of 2022, 5 to the front torso and four to the back.

10:40 Then.

10:41 This is what we were talking about.

10:43 He dismembered her body, and he concealed the remains in two suitcases, and we've heard of this before, but he did this.

10:51 He then resided in the apartment for a month.

10:56 He lived in that apartment with her body stuffed into a suitcase for a month and he used towels and cleaning products to mask the smell.

11:06 Now he also opened the windows, you know that some of the neighbors had to have smelled that coming from somebody who goes to scenes where people are decomposed.

11:17 You cannot hide that smell with cleaning products and opening the window might help a little bit but not a lot.

11:27 I personally like to go on scenes where people are decomposed.

11:31 I don't know why.

11:31 I think it proves to be a little more challenging for me.

11:35 But I do enjoy that.

11:37 I have seen mortuary workers who transport bodies for us have to open the window to puke and, and I don't know, it always cracks me up because I know that they know what they signed up for.

11:49 But I'm sure that some investigators get sick too.

11:53 I'm not going to say that I haven't gotten queasy before if I haven't eaten like before I go on a scene or whatever because we can't always pick and choose what time they have happen.

12:05 I may not have had breakfast or lunch.

12:08 And if I went on a scene, I might be kind of queasy anyway.

12:11 And the smell might just push me over the edge.

12:13 But I've never vomited, never vomited on a scene.

12:15 I can say.

12:17 But this story now, Williams fled the apartment after building personnel came by because they were concerned that they hadn't seen Johnson for some time.

12:29 I'm sure when they came to the door that they smelled the smell because it had been a month, and she was decomposing in the suitcase.

12:38 And if he has to open the windows, you know, when he opened the door or heck, even if he talked to them through the door and didn't open it, they smelled it.

12:47 The apartment personnel then called, the police surveillance footage showed the pair coming and going from the apartment between August 17th and August 21st.

13:00 Now Johnson worked at a Macy's in Queens and on August 21st, she returned home and then was never seen again.

13:10 But guess what?

13:11 This is where it gets really interesting.

13:13 After the 22nd, William's new girlfriend shows up, she probably wasn't smelling yet.

13:20 But I have a feeling that over time if she came over there continuously, she would have noticed it, but pools of blood were also discovered inside his apartment.

13:34 Now, if I was a girl and I came to God's apartment and there were pools of blood.

13:40 Yeah, you're not going to see me again.

13:43 I don't guess he ever cleaned it up.

13:47 I mean, for a month that he lived there and then when she came over the following day, like it was obviously still there because it was there when the police showed up to do their investigation.

13:59 But for two years, he had beat her at one time, he broke her legs.

14:05 He had even broken her ribs.

14:08 The current girlfriend used De Asia's Federal benefits card for purchases in New York City after her murder.

14:17 Yeah, you know, she was aware of what was going on.

14:20 First of all the smell.

14:22 Second of all the blood.

14:24 Third of all, here, here's my Ex-girlfriend’s benefit card.

14:28 Go shopping, not the smartest knife in the drawer.

14:34 10 days afterward, Williams was arrested and shipped to Nassau County to face two bail jumping cases.

14:43 Evidently in June of 2021 he slugged a 66-year-old man.

14:48 And in June of 2020 he stole $200 in merchandise from a Walgreens store.

14:56 He was held on 100 and $25,000 bond in connection to those cases, which was handy because they could, you know, held him while they investigated the murder.

15:09 They did apparently see five women and one man on surveillance video that had entered the apartment complex, and they were sought as witnesses in Del Rey Beach.

15:25 This is in Florida.

15:27 So this is kind of what surprised me.

15:28 I don't know why.

15:29 I was a little bit stunned by this guy's age.

15:32 William Lowe was 78 y'all and he was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and abusing a dead body in the killing of his 80-year-old wife, Adel Barbosa Fontes.

15:47 This, I don't know y'all.

15:49 He's, it takes a lot of strength to take someone down, much less dismember them, load them up in suitcases.

15:57 And put them in the water.

15:59 I mean, that takes a lot.

16:01 Now, the remains were found on July 21st, 2023, after police received a 911 call of a suspicious item in the water.

16:11 Now, police found a suitcase with human remains hanging out of it and it was weighed down with landscaping rocks and had an airport barcode in it with the name Barbosa on it left a few clues, you know, for the police.

16:27 And then a tote bag was also found.

16:30 Now on the tote bag, the handles were tied shut with twine and then it was wrapped with a men's belt.

16:38 Now inside the bag was a woman's head with one gunshot wound.

16:44 A purse was also found in the water, but it had the same twine around it and there was an ashtray in it that was apparently used to weigh it down and the purse had the smell of decomposition as did the other suitcases.

17:01 I'm quite sure dental records were used to ID her, and nearby residents reported that they saw a man looking at one of the suitcases on July 20th and someone asked him what he was looking at and he said he was waiting for a big boat to come into the harbor.

17:22 They said that he appeared nervous, and they did mention that he was driving an older model gold sedan.

17:30 Another witness saw a man on a dock ladder pushing something into the water and surveillance cameras show a man on the dock ladder twice on July 20th, which was, you know, around about the time this all happened, but they also found blood on the dock ladder.

17:50 Now three workers on a nearby roof also saw a man standing on the sea wall looking at one of the suitcases on July 21st before getting in his car and leaving.

18:02 Now, all these people that witnessed this described the gold sedan as maybe a Ford and so a gold Ford Taurus was found nearby, and it had plates on it that came back to Lowe.

18:17 Lowe was questioned on July 31st, and he said that Fontes was in Brazil and that she had been there for three weeks.

18:26 Now, he also said that he didn't know how she got to the airport.

18:31 He didn't know which airline she flew and could not remember when the last time he talked to her was now there was a blood spatter throughout the couple's apartment in the living room, dining room, hallway, master bedroom and both bathrooms.

18:49 Blood was also in the shower drain in the master bath.

18:53 In the tub of the second bathroom, drag marks and blood were in the living room, dining room and master bath and cleaning supplies as well as a nine-millimeter firearm were also found.

19:10 Now neighbors reported hearing Lowe's door open and close in the middle of the night.

19:16 Frequently around the time that his wife went missing and this is kind of strange, but another neighbor reported a quote unquote trail of soup leading from Lowe's door through the hallway and up to a unit owned by his sister who lived there after his parents passed away because they had an apartment above a trail of soup.

19:40 I mean, I don't know what color it was.

19:43 I mean, was it tomato soup?

19:44 I don't know if I saw a trail of anything red.

19:48 I would not automatically think it's soup anyway.

19:52 I don't know how nasty the carpet was in these apartments.

19:55 I'm not sure it may not have been red.

19:58 The carpet may have been red.

19:59 I don't know.

20:00 I don't know y'all, I believe at that point I probably would have just called the police, who knows?

20:05 Maybe she thought he was just dragging his trash bag out and it had a leak in it or something.

20:10 But I don't know.

20:11 It had to have smelled bad though.

20:13 When her apartment, the sister's apartment was searched, a chainsaw cover, a chainsaw charger and cleaning supplies were found.

20:23 Now, when one of the search warrants was executed, low, evidently climbed in through a back window to get his phone and the key to his storage unit.

20:34 So when police found out about the storage unit, they went there and found a Ryobi chainsaw covered in blood, bone flesh and human hair and those were all on the blades and there was a small Coleman cooler that had stains on it that appeared to be blood.

20:52 Now he pled not guilty, which always kind of blows me away.

20:56 But yeah, a police report stated that there was a foot protruding through the zipper on one of the suitcases and it had human legs inside.

21:08 And the second suitcase contained a torso with the head and hands missing and had landscaping rocks in it to weigh it down.

21:20 And the third suitcase contained a female pelvis and more rocks to weight it down.

21:27 Police were kind of unable to determine a motive in this case, which is kind of weird.

21:32 I mean, she was 80 years old, he was 78.

21:38 I think they had been married for over 20 or 30 years.

21:42 I can't understand.

21:44 I mean, I don't know, I don't know if there had been a history of domestic violence.

21:49 None of the reports that I read mentioned it.

21:52 I'm not sure, but he did plead not guilty.

21:56 Cute little wife too.

21:59 I noticed when I was looking at all of the online stories, he was accused of first-degree murder and again pled not guilty.

22:09 This all came to fruition around August or September of last year.

22:14 All that is still pending, but I don't know, it still just kind of blows my mind that he's 78 and he would kill his 80-year-old wife.

22:23 And that does take a lot of strength to take someone down, dismember them, put them in suitcases and then drag them out to the bay.

22:35 I mean, that would take a lot of energy.

22:37 I don't even know if I could do that.

22:40 I don't know how big of a woman she was.

22:41 All the pictures that I found just showed her head or, you know, her upper torso.

22:46 I'm not sure.

22:48 Anyway, it just always, like I said, it just kind of amazes me how suitcases are commonly used in cases like that.

22:58 I can remember when I was a kid, we heard stories about people being found in the Red River in duffel bags and suitcases and there were concrete and rocks and all kinds of things like that.

23:09 I'd be scared for them to drain all the bodies of water and find out what was in the bottom.

23:15 I mean, if there was anything left after the fish got to him.

23:19 But yeah, that just sounds horrifying.

23:22 And I can imagine fighting for my life if someone was obviously trying to kill me and had plans on dismemberment and hiding my body.

23:32 Better put me in a Louis Vuitton.

23:33 That's all I can say.

23:35 No, I'm kidding.

23:36 But anyway, it always amazes me ideas people come up with and how they think they're not going to get caught and leaving all the clues.

23:47 I mean, when someone knows your girlfriend's dead and then you let your current girlfriend use her card to buy stuff like no.

23:55 Anyway, you know, we all know people are crazy.

23:58 We're all a little crazy in our own way.

24:02 I hope y'all have a wonderful day.

24:05 I am headed to the medical examiner's office today and I am hoping that everyone behaves and again, I am going to put together a list of some classes that are available for free for people, not just nurses who might be interested in looking into a forensics career.

24:25 And I myself am going to develop some classes probably that will be viewable on my Patreon or online when I get that up and running.

24:36 It's a process, but I appreciate each of you listening.

24:40 Again.

24:41 Please go online at www.pushinguplilies.com and ask to be a guest host or mention a story that you may want me to talk about.

24:52 I would love to visit with you if you have a family member or friend who's been involved in a crime, want to visit about it.

25:00 If you're listening, whoever it was that told me she dated the suitcase killer, please reach out to me because I would love to interview you.

25:07 I know like again, we talked about it, but we never really made plans and I cannot remember who it was, but she dated him in Wichita Falls and I remember looking up the girl he murdered, and it literally looked just like her.

25:20 She said she never suspected that he would do something like that because he came from a great family, but anyway, have a great day and I look forward to talking to y'all next week.


25:33 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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25:44 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

25:47 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.