A 58-year-old Arizona man is facing multiple felony charges after he allegedly murdered his 80-year-old roommate and dismembered the body with a chainsaw before then attempting to pawn the tool.
Investigators said Thomas Wallace tried to get rid of the evidence by hocking the chainsaw despite the presence of “torn flesh, ligaments, and biological matter” on it, according to NBC affiliate KPNX-TV in Mesa.
Wallace was arrested Sunday on $1 million cash bond on suspicion of second-degree murder, concealing a dead body, theft of a pickup truck and trafficking in stolen property, according to The Associated Press.
In addition, a second suspect, Romana Gonzalez, was jailed on suspicion of fraud and theft.
Authorities said Wallace had been a roommate of the victim, whom neighbors identified to KPNX-TV as Air Force veteran Kenneth Peterson. Gonzalez had also stayed off and on at the home where the body was found.
Police first discovered the apparent murder on Nov. 1 while doing a welfare check on the victim, who reportedly hadn’t talked with family members for around a month.
“Family was concerned because [the victim] had diabetes and might have passed away in the residence,” according to court documents obtained by Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV in Phoenix.
Neighbors told responding officers they hadn’t seen the victim in three to four weeks.
The officers forced their way into the home, which had a “strong foul odor” inside, as well as two black trash bags in a bedroom that contained the victim’s body.
Homicide investigators later discovered blood on the living room ceiling, as well as several walls and pieces of furniture. The victim’s detached head was found in stacked layers of linen, apparently hidden.
Investigators tracked the victim’s pickup to a motel down the street, where they found Wallace and Gonzalez, according to CBS affiliate KTVK in Phoenix.
Although it’s still unclear when the victim died, Gonzalez told officers that she and a friend saw blood on the living room floor on Sept. 30.
Police said Wallace and Gonzalez, an on-and-off couple, pawned some of the man’s items last week, including a camera bag, a camera and a 10-inch chainsaw hedger with a pole attachment.
The couple received $50 for the three items.
Investigators who confiscated and processed the chainsaw said they could smell decomposition on it, in addition to seeing the pieces of flesh and torn ligaments on the blade, according to KPNX-TV.
Ruby Lowry told the station that Peterson was a good neighbor who would help anyone and that “he didn’t deserve that.”