Murder suspect 'impressed' with motel killing

Murder suspect 'impressed' with motel killing

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SALT LAKE CITY — Thomas Kumalac told police that the idea to kill Jessica Jensen "popped into his head" and is what prompted him to fatally stab the woman and stash her body beneath a motel mattress.

In the police interview after his arrest he said he was "impressed" with what he had done, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing Thursday where 3rd District Judge Robin Reese determined there was sufficient evidence to order Kumalac, 29, to stand trial on charges of murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.

"What (Kumalac) told us is that since he was 9 or 10 years old, he'd had these thoughts about harming people," Salt Lake City police detective Cordon Parks said. "This was fueled by the movies he watched."

What (Kumalac) told us is that since he was 9 or 10 years old, he'd had these thoughts about harming people. This was fueled by the movies he watched.

–- Cordon Parks, SLPD

Parks noted that Kumalac specifically cited horror film "Hostel."

Kumalac stands accused of killing Jensen, 25, at the Capitol Motel at 1749 S. State. The woman's body was found by police beneath a mattress on June 2. Officers had been called by a motel employee who noticed a smell coming from the room.

Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Edward Leis said an autopsy showed signs of strangulation and various bruises, but determined that the woman died as a result of 15 stab wounds to her back.

According to court testimony, Kumalac and Jensen were casual friends and were chatting over Facebook on May 27. Parks said Jensen told Kumalac that she had gotten into trouble "in the northern counties of Utah with some Mexican gangsters" and needed a safe place to go.

The pair met later that day at the Salt Lake City Library at 210 E. 400 South, and surveillance video shows them checking into the Capitol Motel.

Murder suspect 'impressed' with motel killing
Photo: Jessica Jensen's body was found in Capitol Motel on June 2.

Brandie Moss, Kumalac's then-girlfriend, testified that she saw Kumalac a few days later, on May 30.

"I could tell there was something wrong with him," Moss said. "There wasn't the Tom I started dating. I just wanted him to tell me what was wrong and, if he'd done something, what he did."

She said Kumalac admitted to killing Jensen and then re-enacted the slaying on her. He told Moss he and Jensen had been at the motel drinking beer, smoking marijuana and had sexual intercourse when he attacked Jensen from behind by putting his arm around her neck, Moss testified.

"I only remember bits and pieces of it," Moss said. "I'm not trying to remember this."

Moss said that Kumalac demonstrated by first wrapping his arms around her throat before taking Moss to the bathroom, where he said he tried to drown Jensen in the toilet. He ultimately turned Jensen faced down and stabbed her multiple times before draining her body of blood, wrapping it in a sheet and placing it under the motel mattress, witnesses said.

Moss said Kumalac told her he used a large pocket knife in the slaying; a knife that he had given to Moss earlier as a gift for her protection. Police said Kumalac later gave the same knife to Jensen for her protection and he found it in her purse the night she was killed.

He said he wasn't mad, he wasn't angry, he didn't know why he did this to a friend.

–- Brandie Moss, ex-girlfriend

"He said he wasn't mad, he wasn't angry, he didn't know why he did this to a friend," Moss said, adding that she didn't want to believe what Kumalac told her. "We just went on living our lives."

When the news hit of the discovery of Jensen's body on June 2 — and Kumalac was eventually named as a suspect — Moss said she notified her estranged husband over Facebook to keep an eye on the news. She then met Kumalac in Ogden, where they boarded a bus for Wendover.

From the bus, she said she then messaged her husband, again over Facebook, about what had happened, said she was scared for her life and asked him to call police. Kumalac was arrested just outside of Wendover and was taken to the public safety building on 315 E. 200 South, where he was interviewed.

"He said he was impressed," Parks testified of Kumalac's response to the slaying.

"Impressed with what?"prosecutor Matthew Janzen asked.

"With what he'd done," Parks responded.

Kumalac told police that he'd thrown the knife and Jensen's belongings away. He also told them that he stayed in the motel room for a few nights after Jensen died.


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