Suspect arraigned in murder of art school grad

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Thursday, July 17, 2014
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The suspect who Philadelphia police say murdered a recent art school graduate and stuffed her body in a duffel bag, has been formally arraigned.

KENSINGTON (WPVI) -- The suspect who Philadelphia police say murdered a recent art school graduate and stuffed her body in a duffel bag, has been formally arraigned.

Authorities say 22-year-old Jeremiah Jakson has been charged with Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Theft, Abuse of Corpse, and related offenses in the death of 23-year-old Laura Araujo.

Jakson was arraigned Thursday and is being held without bail. He is due back in court in August.

"We have the right man," Lieutenant Walter Bell of the Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Police say Araujo, who graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in May, recently moved into a first floor room next door to the room Jakson rented at a Mantua boarding house at 40th and Brown streets.

On Wednesday afternoon, police executed a search warrant looking for evidence connected to the crime.

"The motive was robbery. It is believed that Mr. Jakson believed that she had some money with her, a large amount of cash, based on the vehicle she was driving," Bell said.

According to Bell, a struggle ensued between Jakson and Araujo inside the building late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Araujo's death has been ruled a homicide by strangulation and blunt force trauma.

Investigators say after Jakson killed Araujo, he bound her hands and feet, put her in a trash bag, wrapped her in a blanket, and stuffed her in a duffel bag.

Then, he allegedly dumped her body and all her belongings in a vacant Kensington lot on the 2200 block of North 3rd Street.

"All of her belongings were in different trash bags and duffel bags," Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark said. "From pictures, to clothes, to shoes, to jewelry, her whole life was in those bags."

Her body was discovered around 5:30 a.m. Monday. Police said they believe her body had been on the scene for about four to eight hours.

Police say Jakson then drove Araujo's Toyota Rav-4 to the 1600 block of Bambrey Street in South Philadelphia and used gasoline to set it on fire.

In the process, he was badly burned and dropped his cell phone leaving the scene.

A fire inspector arriving to the car fire was notified of a man suffering burn wounds at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania.

The fire inspector interviewed the man, later identified as Jakson, before he was transferred to Crozer Chester Medical Center.

"Later that day, [the fire inspector] was home watching the news and saw that our victim, who was later identified as Laura Araujo, had the same last name as the [owner of the] vehicle burned in the arson," Bell said.

Jakson was then transported to Homicide Unit for questioning and confessed.

Bell said Jakson is 'no stranger' to law enforcement and has prior arrests for robbery, theft, and gun charges.

Police said Araujo was looking for a more permanent place to stay when she moved temporarily the building a couple of weeks ago.

"It's our belief there may have been a prior contact with the individual and she thought her best interest was to leave that apartment," Bell said.

Sources say the suspect left his cell phone at the scene of the car fire and that he had used the phone to make a call from near the location where Araujo's body was found. The call was placed in the same time frame police believe Araujo's body was dumped. Police, however, could not confirm that during their press conference.

Araujo majored in fashion marketing at the Art Institute. She is originally from New York, police said, but lived in Philadelphia for the past four to five years while going to school.

Her father, Lorenzo Araujo, spoke to Action News about his daughter saying, "She was very special because her main goal in life was related to religion. She never talked about anything going on in her life. She never gave any signs of distress."