CALGARY — California prosecutors have charged a reality TV contestant with the murder of his ex-wife, who was found mutilated and stuffed naked into a suitcase, and Canadian authorities are searching for him after signs he may have illegally slipped north across the border.
One count of murder with malice aforethought was filed against Ryan Jenkins on Thursday afternoon in the death of former model Jasmine Fiore, 28.
Police in Buena Park, Calif., revealed Fiore’s teeth and fingers were removed before her body was found in a trash bin in California last weekend.
They had previously called the 32-year-old Jenkins, a Calgary native who was briefly married to Fiore, a “person of interest” in the case and said they just wanted to talk to him.
Chief Insp. Thomas Hession of the local U.S. Marshall’s Fugitive Task Force said at a news conference Thursday that officers would not rest until he was taken into custody.
“There will be no stone left unturned, we will look under every rock for him,” he said.
“He needs to understand that he’s now officially wanted — that we don’t stop looking for him.”
Fiore’s family members sobbed and hugged each other as police revealed the gruesome details of her death. Her ex-boyfriend, Robert Hasman, told reporters that Fiore’s killer is “an animal,” and spoke directly to anyone who would help the person evade capture.
“Please understand who you’re helping leave this country.”
Border officials and police agencies across Canada were on the lookout for Jenkins after U.S. officials suggested he likely fled more than 1,600 kilometres from southern California to sneak back into the country.
Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said reports that Jenkins had crossed the border were unconfirmed, but police were watching for him.
Jenkins was a contestant on the VH1 reality TV show “Megan Wants a Millionaire” before marrying Fiore. Her death, followed by his disappearance, has sparked a media frenzy, with gossip website TMZ publishing a saccharine love note allegedly between the couple and minute-by-mnute updates of the investigation.
Buena Park Chief of Police Tom Monson said police received work Wednesday that Jenkins could have made his way to Canada. His car and an empty boat trailer were found at a marina in Blaine, just south of Vancouver.
A boat belonging to Jenkins was found at Point Roberts, U.S. territory just south of Vancouver that is at the tip of a peninsula and can only be reached by land from Canada, said Monson.
“It is now our belief that he has crossed the border on foot,” he said. “We are currently working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in our attempts to locate him.”
Police warned that Jenkins may be armed with a handgun and should be considered dangerous.
Vancouver radio station CKNW reported that Jenkins’s mother lives in Vancouver. Quoting a family friend, the station reported she went to meet her son in Seattle on Wednesday, saying it was a family emergency.
The station also reported that Jenkins’s mother refused to comment Thursday.
The border between Washington and British Columbia around Blaine is hard to monitor, especially along waterways dotted with islands, said Benjamin Muller, a border expert at King’s University College in Ontario, who is very familiar with the area.
“I’ve talked to RCMP in the region and there’s all sorts of systems they have to try and monitor the movements on the waters there, and it’s exceptionally difficult,” he said.
Acting Calgary police Chief Al Redford said officers in Jenkins’s hometown were also working with other law enforcement agencies and looking for tips.
Fiore was last seen alive with Jenkins at a poker game in San Diego. Jenkins cut off contact with police after reporting her missing Saturday night to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department.
It’s still not clear how she died, although a preliminary coroner’s report indicated she was strangled.
A friend from Calgary who has known Jenkins for about five years said last spoke with him in late spring, shortly after Jenkins met Fiore.
“He said, ‘I met this amazing girl and we have a lot in common and we’re going to get married,”’ said the friend, who didn’t want to give his name due to the immense publicity the case has attracted.
“He said they just clicked and things were awesome.”
The friend said he was shocked to hear Jenkins could be at all connected to the case, saying he was an “energetic individual, always a lot of fun.”
“In the years that I’ve known him and got to spend time with him, he’s never shown any aggression or anger, he’s just always a positive guy.”