Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 29-year-old Shorewood woman has been charged with allegedly murdering her estranged boyfriend and hiding his body in a newly purchased freezer in her garage.
On Monday afternoon, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced that Jetaun Helen Wheeler has been charged with second-degree intentional murder.
According to the criminal complaint, Wheeler’s 58-year-old boyfriend had been missing for two weeks before family members called police, who later found the victim’s body in a freezer in Wheeler’s garage.
The name of the victim, who is originally from Chicago, has not yet been released. According to the criminal complaint, he had told friends and relatives that he was leaving Wheeler because she has “assaulted him and had been acting crazy.”
Relatives expected him to arrive back in Chicago in early August, but when he did not come back, family members went to the home looking for him. Wheeler told them he had in fact returned to Chicago.
When police arrived to execute a search warrant, police discovered two pieces of carpeting rolled up under Wheeler’s mattress. One piece was soaked with a blood-like substance, the complaint said.
The possible blood splatter drew the investigator’s attention to the garage, where they found a brand new freezer concealed behind two mattresses. Inside, the victim’s body was discovered wrapped in plastic and frozen, according to the criminal complaint.
“It was a big trunk freezer,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a press conference Monday. “He was duct-taped and had been there for a while, although we can’t tell exactly how long.”
Police also found several bags of clothing and shoes – with blood-like stains — in garbage bags concealed beneath the kitchen microwave.
Investigators also found a broken closet rod on the floor of a closet. It was broken in two and tested positive for the presence of blood. The closet rod in Wheeler’s bedroom was missing.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office says an autopsy on Saturday revealed he had blunt force trauma injuries to his face and head, including significant lacerations to his left eye and the left side of his head. He also had contusions to both of his upper arms, defensive wounds to the back of his hands and hemorrhaging in the muscles of his neck.
The medical examiner is waiting on toxicology and microscopic examination and testing before determining the exact cause of death, but homicide is the tentative conclusion.
Police say at the time of the murder, Wheeler’s three young children were living with her, but they have now disappeared. Authorities believe Wheeler hid the children so they cannot be taken into protective custody.
If convicted of her charge, Wheeler could face up to 40 years in prison.