A Tennessee man alleged to have killed his girlfriend just before Thanksgiving this year was saw his bond set the tune of $5 million – a staggering number in the eyes of an attorney in the Volunteer State.
Jason Chen, 22, stands accused of criminal homicide over the death of 22-year-old Jasmine “Jazzy” Pace. The two were dating at the time the victim disappeared. She was last seen alive by her family on Nov. 22, 2022. By the end of the month, Chen was charged with her murder.
On Dec. 1, 2022, Pace’s body was found wrapped in a garbage bag and stuffed inside of a suitcase near Suck Creek Road in Chattanooga. Police said the young woman was handcuffed and both of her ankles were bound to her right wrist. She had been stabbed and cut some 60 times.
During Chen’s bond hearing late last week, prosecutors detailed the final moments of Pace’s life – from the state’s perspective.
“Primarily, there’s a total of 60, that is six-zero, sharp force injuries,” Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office Chief Medical Deputy Dr. Stephen Cogswell told the court, according to Chattanooga CBS affiliate WDEF. “That’s stab wounds and cuts in varying sizes.”
“Her bound position is such that virtually all of the wounds can be inflicted with her in that position,” Cogswell went on to explain, in comments reported by Chattanooga NBC affiliate WRBC.
Chattanooga Police Department Detective Zack Crawford testified that blood evidence suggested Pace was murdered inside Chen’s apartment. The lead detective on the case also said that Chen’s phone records show that he traveled to nearly the exact location where the suitcase containing the victim’s corpse was found.
“The fact I have to say the word ‘garbage bag’ and ‘package’ when we’re dealing with a 23-year-old young woman who has friends and family who care about her is heinous,” Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp argued during the bond hearing.
Prosecutors did not want Chen to be assessed bond at all and sought to cast the defendant as not only dangerous but a flight-risk.
During one point in the hearing, Wamp and Crawford discussed additional GPS data allegedly tied to the defendant.
“Can you tell me when that phone pinged, what location you went to in Nashville?” she asked.
The detective said the location was the “Nashville metro airport.”
“And how close could that phone ping put Mr. Chen’s phone to the Nashville airport?” the prosecutor followed up.
To which Crawford replied: “100 meters or less.”
The detective also testified that the blood he found in the defendant’s apartment was “the largest amount” he had “ever seen.”
Police allege that several rooms in Chen’s apartment had blood stains on them, including the hardwood floor of the living room, on the bathroom grout, and in the bedroom carpet. Blood spatter, police allege, was also found on the bathroom wall. Crawford testified to those findings as well as later results by a forensic team that determined there had previously been more blood in the living room, the bathroom, and the bedroom that was cleaned up by someone.
“There is no defendant that deserves a higher bond than Mr. Chen,” Wamp said during arguments. “There is no bond, in the state’s opinion, that is high enough. Anywhere this defendant goes, we know, based on proof presented today, the community is less safe.”
The defense had requested $250,000 bond – noting that the state’s constitution requires bond be assessed for criminal defendants.
The defendant’s mother, Shufang Chen, testified through a translator.
“He’s telling me he’s very scared here,” she said. “I promise my husband and I will take him to court every time.”
Judge Larry Ables, in assessing the $5 million bond, said that if the defendant were to pay 10 percent of that amount and be released, he would be subject to house arrest with certain geographic restrictions.
“I believe there are some real issues for Mr. Chen,” Ables said.
Chen’s next court date is currently slated for Feb. 16, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.
[Image via screengrab/WDEF]
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