A Texas man accused of killing and dismembering three people before setting them ablaze in a dumpster told police he did it because he had “an in-depth knowledge of the bible and believed he was being called to commit sacrifices,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast.
Jason Alan Thornburg, 41, was arrested Monday night by Fort Worth police on capital murder charges, and is being held at the county jail on $1 million bond, according to detention records. Det. Thomas O’Brien, one of the lead investigators on the case, confirmed Thornburg’s arrest to The Daily Beast. It is unclear if Thornburg, an electrician’s apprentice, yet has an attorney to speak on his behalf.
At around 6:15 a.m last Wednesday, the Fort Worth Fire Department responded to reports of a trash fire outside a storage facility. While working to extinguish the blaze, firefighters discovered three bodies inside the receptacle, in pieces. One seemed to be a teenage girl or young woman. The second appeared to be a child of unknown age and gender, but was subsequently determined to be an adult female. The third body belonged to an unidentified adult male. All of the victims were badly burned, and some body parts were missing altogether.
Police released the identity of one of the three victims found in the dumpster, naming him as 42-year-old drifter David Lueras. He was IDed based on several distinctive tattoos cops matched with those seen in his Facebook profiles, as well as a penis implant discovered during the autopsy, according to the warrant. Members of the Lueras family were unable to be reached.
Investigators have not explained how Lueras and Thornburg knew each other, but said that Lueras, who had an extensive criminal record, had been staying with Thornburg at a local motel for several days before he was killed. Thornburg’s past was comparatively clean, with a 2018 conviction for evading arrest. He served six months before being released on parole.
“Thornburg believed that David needed to be sacrificed,” the warrant states. “He sliced David’s throat, and then cut him into pieces in the bathtub. Thornburg initially hid the remains in his room in trash bags before obtaining Rubbermaid type tubs to store them in.”
About two days later, a woman showed up at Thornburg’s motel room, according to the warrant.
“Thornburg said that he sacrificed her as well by cutting her throat and dismembering her body and also storing her remains in the storage tubs,” the document states.
Another two days passed before “an additional female came to his motel,” the warrant explains. “He knew her as [redacted]. Thornburg described initially trying to stab her but said that he ultimately had to strangle her. He cut her body in pieces and also stored her remains in the tubs.”
Thornburg said he sliced his victims’ throats with a Milwaukee-brand straight-blade knife, according to the warrant.
In a press conference held Tuesday afternoon, Sgt. Joe Loughman of the Fort Worth PD’s homicide unit explained how his team tracked down their suspect.
Detectives began by checking surveillance cameras from the area around the dumpster, and zeroed in on a suspicious Jeep Grand Cherokee that looked like a model from 2005-2010. Police requested a list of all Grand Cherokees from that time frame registered in the area, which totaled more than 7,000 vehicles. However, one name stood out from the rest: Jason Thornburg.
Thornburg was familiar to detectives “because of a suspicious death investigation” this spring, said Loughman. The police report in that case, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, describes a suspected residential arson on May 21. When Fort Worth firefighters arrived on the scene, they found “heavy fire and smoke” coming from the house. The blaze had been intentionally set and began in a bedroom where the lone victim’s remains were found, according to investigators. At the time, Thornburg—the victim’s roommate—had been on cops’ radar, but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
According to the warrant for Thornburg’s arrest in the dumpster murders, investigators contacted the lienholder on Thornburg’s vehicle and got GPS location data that placed it at the Mid-City Inn, a motel in Euless, Texas. Detectives checked surveillance video from the property, and discovered footage that allegedly showed Thornburg “exiting a room carrying plastic bins with what we believe to be body parts of our victims,” said Loughman. “That subject made multiple trips to and from that location to add additional items to the back of his car.”
The timeframe of those trips coincided with the amount of time it would take to get from Euless to the dumpster in Fort Worth where the three bodies were found, Loughman explained.
The two female victims found in the dumpster were, at best, casual acquaintances of Thornburg’s, according to Loughman.
On Monday, Fort Worth detectives shadowing Thornburg spotted him leaving a house in Arlington. Three of them approached Thornburg and asked to speak with him. In an interview with investigators back at the police station, cops say Thornburg confessed in “intimate detail” not only to killing the three people found in the dumpster, but also to slitting his roommate’s throat in May before causing a gas explosion that burned down the house.
“Detectives asked if there had been any additional sacrifices and he responded that he had sacrificed the body of his girlfriend in Arizona,” the arrest warrant states.
No motive has been released by police, and Loughman said he “really couldn’t even go into the psyche of someone who is able to do this.” However, a cousin of Lueras’ told local outlet KDFW that Lueras “was scared,” and that “he knew somebody was after him to get him,” but “wouldn’t tell us their names.”
“Whoever did this definitely wanted to make an example out of him,” said Aaron Torres, who claimed Lueras was back in Texas, where he had lived on and off, to “hide.”
Loughman said that he has never seen another case like this in his time on the Fort Worth PD’s homicide unit. Detectives will be delving into their backlog of cold cases to see if Thornburg might have been connected to any of those, and he called on other departments to do the same.
“I’m hoping that this gets out, nationally and potentially internationally,” said Loughman, who hopes that “if there are any investigations ongoing in other jurisdictions, that they will reach out to us.”
Fort Worth PD Chief Neil Noakes said at Tuesday's press conference that he was proud of his officers for making an arrest in less than a week.
“It would have become a cold case if not for their diligent efforts,” he said.