“I killed her,” Lake Elsinore resident Joseph David Dorsey told Detective James Merrill in a videotaped interrogation on Oct. 23, 2012.
Snippets of the video were played during Dorsey’s preliminary hearing Friday at Southwest Justice Center.
“I don’t understand why I snapped. I felt like a devil or demon speaking through me. I take full responsibility for my actions,” 28-year-old Dorsey told the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department detective.
After hearing from several prosecution witnesses, including the detective’s taped interview, Judge Michael Rushton ordered there is enough evidence to support a first-degree charge of murder against Dorsey and a Feb. 15 informational arraignment was set for the defendant. Meanwhile, he sits in jail in lieu of $5 million bail.
. On Aug. 8, 2012, her body was found by investigators stuffed inside a suitcase in room 115 at a Best Western Hotel in Poway. According to the prosecution, Dorsey killed Stewart at his studio apartment at 138 N. Main Street in Lake Elsinore, stuffed her body in the suitcase and drove to the hotel.
Cause Of Death
Dr. Mark Fajardo, chief forensic pathologist for the Riverside County Coroner’s Office, provided testimony Friday on the autopsy he performed on Stewart’s body.
He told the court the body came to him folded up in the suitcase in the early stages of decomposition. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation with blunt force trauma to the neck, head and chest.
The blows to the head and body occurred before Stewart died, the doctor said.
During the early morning hours of Aug. 5, Dorsey and Stewart argued at his Lake Elsinore studio apartment after she scrolled through text messages from her fiancé, Daniel Loile, the accused told the detective.
Loile testified Friday he had been in a relationship with Stewart for five years, but had seen Dorsey with her once in December 2011. He thought the two were no longer seeing each other, Loile told the court.
That wasn't the case, Dorsey said in the Oct. 23 video. He told Merrill he knew about Loile, but the texting triggered something in him.
“We were both in bed. We had just finished having sex – maybe five minutes before,” Dorsey said. But the arguing began as she started fiddling with her phone, he told the detective.
“I had her pinned to the bed by her throat.”
“How long?” Merrill asked.
“‘Til my [expletive] hands hurt.”
“She wasn’t dead,” Dorsey continued. “She was still trying to breathe.”
According to the interrogation video, Dorsey grabbed a cell phone charger and wrapped its cord around Stewart’s neck in an attempt to further strangle her.
“It didn’t work,” Dorsey continued. Finally, he dragged Stewart to his bathtub and drowned her, he told Merrill.
She didn’t try to fight or scream; she couldn’t, Dorsey said.
After what felt like 20 minutes of keeping his girlfriend’s head underwater, she was dead, he told Merrill.
Dorsey said he cleaned the body and, in an attempt to keep neighbors from seeing anything suspicious, he stuffed it in his black rolling suitcase then moved it into a 1994 Ford Explorer, hopped in the driver’s seat and headed toward Mexico.
On The Run
“I was looking for somewhere to get rid of the body,” Dorsey told Merrill on the video. He thought of dumping it near Lake Poway, but didn’t know the area well and stopped at the Best Western instead, he said.
According to hotel records, Dorsey checked in at 6:23 a.m. Aug. 5. He was scheduled to stay for two nights, but he never checked out and instead fled to Mexico without the black suitcase containing Stewart's remains.
Hotel staff found the suitcase and stored it unknowingly before police came looking for it on Aug. 8. An investigation into Stewart’s disappearance had already started in southwest Riverside County after she failed to show up for work on Aug. 6. Police had learned of the romantic relationship between Stewart and Dorsey, which allegedly formed after the two met at a Hemet drug rehabilitation facility where Stewart worked as a behavioral health specialist. Police searched for the pair and obtained a warrant to search Dorsey’s Main Street studio in Lake Elsinore. Evidence of a foul play was allegedly found at the scene, but it’s unclear what led investigators to the Best Western.
A warrant for Dorsey’s arrest was issued in August and on Oct. 23 he was finally located by authorities in Mexico and extradited to Riverside County by officials here.
More Damning Evidence
During his incarceration, Dorsey allegedly penned a letter to 47-year-old female inmate Kim Lucero, who is currently being held on suspicion of more than a dozen felonies, including forgery, burglary and having prison priors. The letter was intercepted Jan. 4 by Deputy Eric Estrada, who serves at the Robert Presley Detention Center where Dorsey and Lucero are both being held.
The letter was entered as evidence Friday.
“I killed my girlfriend,” Dorsey allegedly wrote. “Women can’t keep their mouths shut.”