FORT WORTH, Texas — A 41-year-old man was arrested Monday in connection with the murder of three people who were found dismembered in a dumpster that was on set fire last week in Fort Worth.
Jason Alan Thornburg faces a charge of capital murder of multiple persons and is being held at Tarrant County Jail on a $1 million bond.
"This case was shocking and unsettling, and we knew bringing someone to justice in this case was paramount," Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes said during a news conference Tuesday.
Police said all three victims were heavily dismembered, which made it difficult for authorities to identify them. One of the victims has been identified as 42-year-old David Lueras.
During the news conference, Fort Worth homicide detectives said they were able to identify Thornburg and his possible involvement based on a Jeep Grand Cherokee that was seen in the area near the time the dumpster was set on fire.
Police say that Thornburg confessed to the murders of the people found in the dumpster and claimed that he had "an in-depth knowledge of the Bible and believed he was being called to commit sacrifices," according to the arrest warrant.
Police say that he also confessed to killing his roommate in May and confessed to killing a woman in Arizona.
What we know
Police obtained surveillance video from across the street of the dumpster which allegedly showed his SUV pull up and park next to the dumpster on Sept. 21, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Detectives searched through a list of Jeep Grand Cherokees registered in Tarrant County and a detective recognized Thornburg's name since he was previously investigated for the suspicious death of his roommate in May.
Police viewed the surveillance video and wrote in an arrest warrant that Thornburg is seen allegedly making multiple trips from the trunk to the dumpster and dumped the contents before putting the containers back in his vehicle.
Surveillance video shows the SUV leaves the dumpster area but returns a little bit later, police said in an arrest warrant. Then Thornburg allegedly makes multiple trips to dump the contents into the dumpster. Police say that he then ignited an unknown device which started a large visible fire about five seconds later.
Police were also able to locate the vehicle through the Jeep's GPS locator and it matched the vehicle in the surveillance video, according to the arrest warrant. On Monday, Thornburg agreed to speak with homicide detectives.
At Mid City Inn, Scott Shaw lived just above Thornburg and said the two had bonded over scripture.
"I said, 'Hey JT, what are you reading?' He’d say, 'Oh, I’m in [the book of] Isaiah.' I said, 'Oh, I’m in [the books of] Peter,'" Shaw said. "I’m blown away. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. He had everybody fooled."
Thornburg's past and criminal history
Thornburg lived in Arizona and Montana prior to living in Fort Worth, records show. Police say that Thornburg is Native American. People living at the motel told WFAA that he told them that he was Navajo.
He has a biblical verse written in his biography section on his Facebook profile. People who lived at the motel told WFAA that Thornburg would pass out fliers for a church in Fort Worth.
A neighbor who lived in a motel room nearby told WFAA that he started to smell something rotten about a week ago.
Thornburg was convicted of a few misdemeanors in Oklahoma, Arizona and Texas.
In Texas, Thornburg began a two-year sentence in November 2018 for evading arrest with a vehicle in Wise County, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
He was released to mandatory supervision in May 2019 and was discharged on June 11, 2020.
Timeline in North Texas:
May 2021: Police launch a suspicious death investigation when a man was found dead in a house fire. Thornburg was the man's roommate. Investigators didn't have enough information to further tie Thornburg to the case.
July 28: Thornburg begins his stay at the Mid City Inn, according to an arrest warrant.
September 2021, sometime during the week prior to the dumpster fire: A person who lived at the motel told police that he saw David Lueras for a few days at the motel and that Lueras was staying with Thornburg, according to an arrest warrant. The person also tells police that he recently also saw a woman staying in the room who had reddish-blonde hair.
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 10:24 p.m.: Thornburg allegedly put several large containers from the motel room and puts them in the Jeep. He allegedly left the motel wearing a full-body suit, similar to what is worn in drywall or painting, according to the arrest warrant.
Wednesday, Sept. 22
12:26 a.m.: Thornburg allegedly returns to put another load of containers into the Jeep before leaving again.
1:28 a.m.: Thornburg allegedly takes containers from the back of the Jeep and puts them back in a motel room.
6:17 a.m.: Firefighters respond to dumpster on fire in the 3100 block of Bonnie Drive.
Monday, Sept. 27: Police located Thornburg in Arlington where he was working. He agreed to speak with detectives and was arrested in Euless.
Tuesday, Sept. 28: Fort Worth police held a news conference sharing that Thornburg was their primary suspect.
Other alleged murders:
During the news conference Tuesday, police said Thornburg also confessed to a suspicious death in May that he was previously connected to.
In that case, according to the warrant, Thornburg's roommate died in a gas explosion at their Fort Worth home, but because of the explosion, the medical examiner's office was not able to determine a cause of death.
The explosion happened minutes after Thornburg left for work.
The warrant said Thornburg admitted in his interview to police to "sacrificing" his roommate before uncapping the natural gas line and lighting a candle.
Finally, the warrant said Thornburg admitted to police that he killed his girlfriend in Arizona, where she had been reported missing.
Because of the alleged connection between Thornburg and the crime out of state, authorities are now looking to determine if he could be tied to any other unsolved cases anywhere else - including across the country and internationally.