"A distinct smell of decayed flesh," blood and a bullet hole led detectives to charge a 27-year-old North Texas man with murder in the death of his girlfriend last week, according to a probable cause affidavit released Tuesday.
Jason Michael Lowe, of Richardson, was arrested last Thursday and charged with murder Friday in the death of 27-year-old Jessie Bardwell, a native of Pascagoula, Mississippi, who has been missing since April 29.
Richardson police began investigating after Bardwell’s family asked them to perform a welfare check. According to the affidavit, the family said Bardwell had been out of touch for two weeks. Her father told police on May 8 it was uncharacteristic of Bardwell not to reach out on Mother's Day.
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Officers visited the apartment Bardwell shared with Lowe twice that day to question Lowe about his girlfriend’s whereabouts. Lowe told police Bardwell had left Mother’s Day morning in her Acura MDX and had no functioning cellphone because her "pay as you go" plan had expired, according to the affidavit. On a second visit by police later in the day, no one was home.
Police returned May 9 to speak with Lowe and found him covered in mud. Lowe said he had gone out to look for Bardwell near some trails she frequented along the President George Bush Turnpike and got muddy when the dog broke away, according to the affidavit. When officers asked about fresh cuts on his hands, Lowe allegedly said the dog had scratched him.
His car, a black 2010 Audi Q5, was also covered in mud and police said the entire front panel was in the back seat. When officers asked about the damage, Lowe told police he had recently gone "mudding," the affidavit says.
Lowe again said Bardwell left Mother's Day morning and that it wasn't out of the ordinary for them to spend several hours apart as they "lead a lifestyle where they both do their own thing without being co-dependent," according to the affidavit.
Officers searched the Audi and a Dodge Ram pickup truck in Lowe’s possession. They found two handguns — a black Sig Sauer P320 and black Springfield XDS — in a black bag on the truck’s floorboard, according to the affidavit. Both weapons were clearly visible, police said. Lowe told the officers he owns a gray 2015 Infiniti L37 that was being repaired and that the Dodge Ram pickup truck had been provided by insurance.
Lowe then allowed the officers to walk through the couple's apartment and to check the rental garage at the complex. The officers reported no signs of a struggle and that nothing out of the ordinary was found.
Detectives entered Bardwell's Acura MDX into the LEARN-NVLS National Vehicle Location Service on May 11 in hopes of locating the vehicle. Police tracked the car to a home on Nueces Drive in Garland, where it had stopped on May 2 and May 9. The resident told investigators Lowe and Bardwell had sold him the car April 19, but that Bardwell's father was having trouble with the SUV's title.
Lowe told police the man had paid $700 for access to the vehicle but insisted Bardwell had taken it on Mother's Day, the affidavit says.
Police asked if crime scene technicians could search the residence and Lowe initially agreed, but hesitated when he learned the garage would be part of that search, according to the affidavit.
Investigators noticed "a distinct smell of decayed flesh" in the garage, according to the affidavit. Detectives spotted spotted a shovel and bullet hole in the wall, along with a bottle of Febreze near Lowe's Audi. When they opened the rear hatch, police "observed standing fluid inside the rear hatch floorboard" said the smell of rotting flesh seemed to be coming from inside the car, the affidavit says.
Crime scene technicians later confirmed the fluid to be blood. Blood evidence was also found on the floor of the rear compartment area, on a storage compartment, on the gear shift, steering wheel and driver's side door handle, according to the affidavit. Muddy boots were located inside the Audi, police said.
"Detectives believe evidence of homicidal violence and possible body disposal was present inside the Audi," police said in the affidavit.
A neighbor told police she saw Lowe standing in the bed of the truck on May 7 cleaning the vehicle. She said she also saw him removing numerous trash bags from a box.
With Bardwell still missing and the evidence found at their shared residence, Lowe was charged with murder and is being held with a recommended bond of $1 million. He also faces drug charges after police found white powder in his apartment and Lowe admitted to having "coke." It wasn't clear if Lowe had an attorney who could speak to the charges.
Lowe has a criminal history in Dallas, police said, including an arrest on May 29, 2015, for aggravated assault, serious bodily injury after being accused of assaulting his then girlfriend, causing her to lose consciousness. Bardwell and Lowe are believed to have started dating sometime before she moved to North Texas in December 2015, though it's not clear if she is the woman in the May 2015 incident.