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Prosecutors seeking death penalty against man after bodies found burning in Fort Worth dumpster

Jason Thornburg, 41, was arrested after the bodies of the victims were found on Sept. 22 in west Fort Worth on Bonnie Drive.
Credit: WFAA
Jason Alan Thornburg, 41.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a man accused in the deaths of three people who were found in a burning dumpster in Fort Worth last year, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.

Jason Thornburg, 41, was arrested after the bodies of the victims were found on Sept. 22 in west Fort Worth on Bonnie Drive.

The victims were identified as David Lueras, 42, Lauren Phillips, 34, and Maricruz Reyes-Mathis, 33.

“The decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty is a crucial decision this office makes,” Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a news release Monday. “The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst criminals. “It is only fitting that we seek the death penalty in this case.”  

Thornburg was indicted in December.

According to the arrest warrant, Thornburg knew and met the victims at the Mid City Inn in Euless and that he confessed to his involvement in their deaths. He also "went into intimate details" about how he killed them, the arrest warrant stated.

The warrant also stated that he claimed he was being called to commit sacrifices and that he was also involved in two other separate killings, one in Texas and another in a different state.

In October, a Tarrant County magistrate judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Thornburg, stating there was "reasonable cause to believe [Thornburg] has a mental illness or is a person with an intellectual disability."

The parents of victim Reyes-Mathis told WFAA that she stayed at the Mid City Inn and never said anything about Thornburg. They believe she didn't know him.

“She just ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said mother Mary Hanshaw.

“I really believe that he deserves the death penalty,” Hanshaw added. “Please, don’t let him out on the street again.”

Hanshaw said her daughter was involved in church groups and loved the holidays.

Death Penalty in Tarrant County 

Death penalty cases have been rare in Tarrant County in recent years; Hector Acosta-Ojeda was the most recent defendant prosecuted in the county who was sent to Texas' death row.

Hector Acosta-Ojeda was found guilty of capital murder in the September 2017 killings of Erick Zelaya and Iris Chirinos.

Before Acosta-Ojeda, Amos Wells III was convicted in Tarrant County in 2016 for the killings of three people in Fort Worth, including his pregnant girlfriend.

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