The shock is still setting in — and the search for answers continues — for family members of a Federal Way woman and a Kent man whose remains washed up along a West Seattle shoreline in June.
On June 19, Seattle Police and Seattle Fire recovered bags containing human remains that were located near the water in the 1100 block of Alki Avenue SW. The agencies initially responded to the area for reports of a suspicious suitcase that had washed up on the beach. Another bag was found in the water, the Mirror previously reported.
The bodies were identified as 35-year-old Jessica Lewis, who died on June 16 from multiple gunshot wounds. The second body was identified as 27-year-old Austin Wenner, who died on June 16 from a gunshot wound to the torso. Both of the deaths have been ruled as homicides.
Lewis, who lived in Federal Way, and Wenner, who lived in Kent, were in a long-term relationship, said Gina Jaschke, Lewis’s aunt.
The couple had been dating for about eight years, said Jaschke, who described the two as good-hearted people “trying to make it in this world.”
Lewis, a mother of three sons and a daughter, had worked alongside her grandmother as a caregiver for developmentally disabled and hospice care patients at an adult family home in Kirkland. She had a big heart and had always sought to take care of others, her aunt said.
“She was just a sweetheart, a ray of sunshine,” said Jaschke, fondly recalling a memory of brushing Lewis’s hair when she was a toddler. “She always had a big smile.”
Wenner, nicknamed “Cash” by friends and family, was a “country boy” who loved the outdoors, fishing and swimming, Jaschke said. Wenner’s family asked to mourn in private.
The incident is still under active investigation by the Seattle Police Department.
“Right now I don’t think it’s sunken in for any of us,” Jaschke said. “It’ll never sink in for me. I’ll never have rest until somebody is held accountable for it.”
Each family is now living a nightmare, Jaschke said, the pain of Lewis’s family amplified by another recent loss — Lewis’s grandfather died on July 12.
Jaschke has organized a GoFundMe page to raise reward money for anyone with information leading to the person(s) responsible for the deaths. So far, the page has raised $2,035 of a $10,000 goal.
“PLEASE HELP FIND THE PERSON OR PERSONS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS SENSELESS CRIME,” the page reads. “Your donation will help and go to the person who gives the Seattle Police information that leads to the arrest and conviction of these murderers.”
The page asks anyone with information that may help solve the crime to call Seattle Police Department’s Violent Crimes tip line at 206-233-5000.
Family members last saw Lewis in early June, Jaschke said.
“We’re still just inconsolable,” Jaschke said of the family’s well being. “We’re just heartbroken, shocked. We just can’t believe it.”
The incident was documented via a viral TikTok video, which shows several teens finding a foul-smelling black suitcase near an Alki Beach pier while using Randonautica, an app designed to navigate users to “truly random locations sourced with quantum entropy,” according to the app’s website.
A donator named “The Randonauts” provided $200 to the GoFundMe page on behalf of the Randonautic team.
The donation post reads in part: “The group of friends that made the discovery was using our adventure app so we quickly caught wind of the story. We can’t fathom what you must be going through but we want to support however we can. We have a large community of explorers that were moved by your story about your niece. We are working to campaign and help drive donations here. Your family deserves peace and justice for what happened!”
The video has since received 24.3 million views on TikTok and thousands of shares through other social media and news sites.
Jaschke said she has reached out to the video’s creators in hopes they take down the video. She said she appreciates their help and hopes they are not haunted by the incident, but the victims’ families want both Lewis and Wenner to have peace before they are laid to rest.
“We can’t change what happened. I just don’t want the internet full of just this video and news stories of how they were found,” Jaschke said. “I really want to let people know who they were and … hope they’re remembered for that more so [than the video]. They were very good people, they had good hearts.”
Seattle Police declined to comment on the active investigation or if there are any suspects at the time. Updates on the case have been provided on the SPD Blotter. The most recent update was June 30.
Jaschke said she will never know rest until the individual responsible for the deaths is held accountable, but remains steadfast in her belief the person will be caught.
“We’ll never give up. I’ll never give up,” she said. “They destroyed my family … we’ll never be the same.”
This story originally appeared in the Federal Way Mirror, a sister publication to The Herald.