Suspect in model’s death is found dead
The international manhunt for Ryan Jenkins, suspected of killing his former wife and dumping her mutilated body in a Buena Park trash bin, ended Sunday in the woodsy tourist town of Hope, British Columbia. Authorities said the former reality television contestant hanged himself in a motel room.
At a Sunday night news conference, Buena Park police said they were disappointed that Jenkins would not face the first-degree murder charge they had sought.
“The sadness of this all is that Mr. Jenkins will not stand before an Orange County jury for his crimes,” said Buena Park Police Lt. Steve Holliday.
Holliday refused to answer questions about whether the fugitive had been aided while on the run, citing the ongoing investigation.
He did appear to have some help, the Associated Press reported. A young woman apparently checked Jenkins into the Thunderbird Motel and paid cash for three nights. According to the motel manager, when the couple failed to check out, an employee entered the room and discovered Jenkins hanging from the bar of a clothing rack.
Jenkins had led authorities on a sprawling chase last week, first driving north in a black BMW SUV, surfacing in Washington state. Jenkins then eluded U.S. and Canadian law enforcement authorities Wednesday night as he raced toward the international border in a speedboat. That boat, called the Night Ride Her, was discovered in a marina across the border from Vancouver, where Jenkins, a Canadian national, was believed to have family.
Jenkins was a real estate executive in Calgary.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police were combing British Columbia for Jenkins, whose notoriety was fanned by the viciousness of the well-publicized crime. Authorities say Jenkins killed 28-year-old Jasmine Fiore and removed her fingers and teeth, evidently to conceal her identity. Police allege that he then stuffed the swimsuit model’s body in a suitcase and dumped it in a Buena Park trash bin. It was found by a man combing the trash for recyclables.
Authorities were able to identify Fiore based only on a serial number found on a breast implant, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
The 32-year-old Jenkins appeared to be leading a glittering life, calling himself an investment banker when he was a contestant on the VH1 reality television show “Megan Wants a Millionaire.” But he ended his life in a decidedly less than glamorous setting, in a drab motel that rented rooms by the month.
The case has raised questions about the vetting process of reality show contestants. According to Canadian authorities, Jenkins had a previous conviction for assault on an unidentified woman.
In April, Jenkins allegedly struck Fiore, who sometimes used the last name Kinkade, on the arm at a hotel in Las Vegas. In June, he was charged with “battery constituting domestic violence” in connection with the incident, according to court documents.
According to a statement released by a spokesman for Los Angeles-based 51 Minds Entertainment, which produced the show, executives were unaware of Jenkins’ record when they cast him on “Megan Wants A Millionaire.”
Jenkins was scheduled to appear in another VH1 show, “I Love Money,” set to air in January.
The manhunt was picked up by Canadian authorities last week. They circulated a photograph of Jenkins, saying he was dangerous and warning people to be on the lookout for him.
“The ring was tightening on him,” Tom Hession, chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service’s regional fugitive task force, said Sunday night. “He obviously was desperate.”
The Thunderbird Motel is about an hour’s drive from the U.S. border. Three major Canadian highways intersect in Hope, making its two-dozen hotels a likely stopover for travelers through the province.
The low-slung, brown and white building is a “dive,” according to Sam Rychter, whose parents own the Quality Inn, in the newer part of town.
On Sunday evening the Thunderbird’s parking lot was teeming with local authorities, and yellow crime scene tape was draped across the west portion of the building. A telephone listing for the motel was no longer in service.
The idea that a suspected killer might be at large in Hope, a town bulging with families and tourists on a summer day, was chilling to some residents.
“It shocks me that he’s here,” said Mike Adams. “But a lot of things about society give me the creeps. It’s something you think about and shake your head.”
Adams described the town of 8,000 nestled in the foothills of the Coastal Range on the banks of the Fraser River as “pretty quiet,” although summers are crowded with boaters, river rafters, fishermen and people passing through the former logging town. “We don’t get the town back until after Labor Day,” he said.
Barbara Rychter was on duty at her hotel when she heard sirens shrieking about 2 p.m. Sunday. “I thought it was another accident on the road,” she said. The gruesome details of the Jenkins murder case were familiar to most people in town, and Jenkins’ photograph had been widely distributed.
“It has been on the news,” she said. “They said they expected that he might go through this area.”
Rychter added that while the manhunt had received saturation coverage in local media, many of the hotels in town are owned by Korean-speaking residents who may not have heard about Jenkins or recognized his face.
Fiore had recently moved to L.A. from Las Vegas, where she had worked as a commercial and swimsuit model. Her mother said Fiore had recently obtained a real estate license and established a personal training business with a friend. She was last seen Aug. 13, when she and Jenkins went to an upscale Del Mar hotel together.
Fiore and Jenkins had married in March, then had the marriage annulled. They were apparently still dating.
Jenkins checked out of the hotel alone the next morning, according to prosecutors.
At some point, authorities allege, Jenkins killed Fiore, placed her in the suitcase and left it in the Buena Park trash bin. “The victim had been badly beaten, all of her fingers had been cut off, and all of her teeth had been forcibly removed,” prosecutors said in a statement last week.
Jenkins reported Fiore missing to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 15 and then fled, prosecutors said.