Woman Found Dead After Hosting Halloween Costume Party At Her Apartment
Whoever killed Arpana Jinaga doused her with motor oil and scrubbed her fingernails with toilet bowl cleaner.
A woman in Washington who celebrated Halloween into the early morning hours at a large costume party with dozens of people at her building was found dead in her bedroom days later.
On the evening of Oct. 31, 2008, Arpana Jinaga, a 24-year-old software engineer and Indian immigrant, co-hosted the holiday get-together at the Valley View Apartments in Redmond, a suburb of Seattle.
She and several other residents in the complex opened the doors to their apartments for what was to be a night of fun.
Dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, the recent Rutgers University graduate joined neighbors as well as dozens of the other residents’ friends and family around 8 p.m. as everyone passed through the different apartments or hung out at food and snack tables set up outside the units.
According to Rolling Stone, photos of Jinaga shot that evening show her dressed in her fairy-tale costume and often carrying a glass of red wine as she posed and appeared to be having a good time with the other partygoers.
By around 3 a.m., the party was mostly over, and the publication reported that a resident recalled spotting a tall man with olive skin speaking with Jinaga as she stood in her third-floor apartment’s doorway. The eyewitness was the last person to see her alive.
Jinaga’s next-door neighbors told police they later heard what sounded like muffled moaning in her apartment, which they attributed to consensual sexual activity. One neighbor recalled hearing water running through pipes inside the wall between their units around 8 the morning after the party.
Two days later, on Nov. 3, Jinaga failed to show up for work. Her father, worried because his daughter had missed several daily calls she always made to loved ones in India, asked a family friend if he could check on her.
According to police records, the family friend headed to the apartment, where he bumped into Jinaga’s neighbor. The pair discovered the lock on her door was broken and the jam damaged.
When the two entered the unit to investigate, they found Jinaga’s naked body covered with a sheet and lying on the floor at the foot of her bed.
A medical examiner determined Jinaga died between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Nov. 1 as a result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation. She also had blunt-force trauma injuries to her battered body and she was sexually assaulted, according to the Redmond Reporter.
Detectives documented how whoever killed the victim appeared to go to extremes in order to cover up the grisly crime scene. Bleach was everywhere — from the counter in the bathroom to the bare mattress and carpet in the bedroom. The bed’s comforter was in the bathtub sopping wet, and burn marks on the carpet indicated someone may have tried to set the apartment on fire. Jinaga’s fingernails were scrubbed and then covered with a blue toilet bowl cleaner. Her lower body was splashed with motor oil.
“It was a scene where the suspect or suspects spent a considerable amount of time covering the evidence of crime,” Redmond police Lt. Brian Coats noted in an interview.
Despite the apparent attempt to destroy forensic material, DNA from two males present at the complex during the party — one a friend of a resident, the other a neighbor — was found on duct tape used to gag Jinaga and on a motor oil bottle, vital pieces of evidence collected during the investigation.
DNA from other partygoers was also found at the crime scene since people had gone in and out of Jinaga’s apartment, but police noted none was located on any items considered evidence.
Two years after Jinaga was found dead, police arrested a man who attended the Halloween party and held him on a first-degree murder with sexual motive charge.
It took almost nine years and two separate juries to decide his fate.
Read part two on the wrongful jailing of Emanuel Fair.