A Lake Elsinore man who brutally murdered a Canyon Lake woman and stuffed her body in a suitcase then left it in a Poway hotel room was sentenced Friday morning to more than a half century in prison.
Superior Court Judge Mark Mandio handed down a 56-year-sentence at Southwest Justice Center to 29-year-old Joseph Dorsey for the August 2012 murder of Christine Stewart.On June 27, Dorsey was found guilty of the first-degree murder of the 47-year-old woman. It took the jury less than a day to render its verdict.
The case was grisly. During a preliminary hearing earlier this year, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky showed an interrogation video of Dorsey shortly after his arrest.
“I killed her,” Dorsey told Detective James Merrill in the Oct. 23, 2012 videotape. “I don’t understand why I snapped. I felt like a devil or demon speaking through me. I take full responsibility for my actions.”
The early August 2012 killing took place in Dorsey's residence on Main Street in Lake Elsinore.
“We were both in bed. We had just finished having sex – maybe five minutes before,” Dorsey told detectives during interrogation. But arguing began as she started fiddling with her phone, he added.
“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 south.Along the way, Dorsey checked into Best Western hotel in Poway with the suitcase, but he never checked out and instead fled to Mexico. Best Western staff found the 3-foot-long black bag in Dorsey’s room and took possession of it. Investigators working the missing person case of Stewart knew of the dating relationship she had with Dorsey. As they searched for his whereabouts, they were led to the hotel and the subsequent grisly discovery of the unclaimed suitcase carrying her body.
A warrant was issued for Dorsey’s arrest and on Oct. 23 he was located by Mexican law enforcement and placed under arrest in Playas de Rosarito before being returned that day to the United States.