A Texas man was arrested this week on suspicion of killing a woman after police said data on his phone showed he had been at the woman’s home and was conducting suspicious online searches after her disappearance , including “How long does it take for a corpse to decompose? Bones.”
The U.S. Marshals Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force Tuesday arrested 40-year-old Jesse Lee Williams for murder in connection with the death of 51-year-old Paula Belonga. Belonga was reported missing in April and was not found dead or alive. However, in an affidavit, investigators explained why they believe Williams was responsible for her death.
Authorities say Belonga’s car was found parked by the RV where Williams was staying, Williams’ phone was used for a series of suspicious internet searches, and a necklace belonging to Belonga and a bone were found by the side of the road at one named in online searches Location.
Williams has yet to appear in court and a request for comment to his attorney was not immediately returned Thursday.
According to the warrant, Belonga was reported missing on April 9 by her brother, who had not heard from her for several days and told police that she had not picked up her son in Louisiana as scheduled. She was last seen by traffic cameras on April 7 in her white Chevrolet Impala as she exited her home in Tyler, Texas.
On April 10, one of Belonga’s friends called the police again and told them that Belonga had not gone to work. The friend told officials that it would be very different from Belonga if he disappeared.
By tracing Belonga’s phone, police found her car parked next to an RV in Tatum, about 50 miles from her own home.
The woman who stayed at the mobile home gave Williams the contact information to officers and told them he parked Belonga’s car there and claims he worked as a house sitter while Belonga was out of town, the warrant said.
During separate questioning, the woman told officers that she and Williams had been dating and living in the mobile home. She claimed Williams physically assaulted her and her teenage daughter two weeks earlier. There were no arrests at the time and Williams left voluntarily, the arrest warrant said.
According to the warrant, police called Williams on April 11 and he claimed that Belonga was fine and that he had spoken to her recently. He gave officers a number saying Belonga could be reached, but no one answered immediately.
The next day, an officer texted the phone number Williams had said belonged to Belonga. Someone replied, “Please leave me alone. Out of the state I’m fine with my husband so please leave me and my boyfriend alone.”
According to the warrant, the officer believed they texted Belonga. The officer replied that the police needed to speak to Belonga as she was listed as a missing person.
“Well you can take it off because I don’t want anything to do with anyone in my family because they just lie and abuse. I’m so over her and this is bullshit,” someone replied 15 minutes later. “And as for my friend Jesse, you guys have to fucking leave him alone. I paid him to take care of my dog. I’m not talking to you or anyone else so please leave me alone and let me live my life the way I want to.”
The police tried to call the number, but again no one answered, the arrest warrant said.
Police then learned that the number was registered to Williams, according to the warrant. They also obtained an arrest warrant for him in connection with the alleged assault reported by his girlfriend.
Williams was arrested at another mobile home in Angelina County. A search of his wallet found a personal check from Belonga and allegedly forged checks made out to Williams dated April 10, the day after Belonga was reported missing, the warrant said.
First, the warrant said Williams told police he met Belonga in New York a few years ago while working as a doorstep seller. He allegedly told police that she had arrived at his home on the day of her last visit, that she had a suitcase with her and appeared to be in a hurry to leave. Williams said Belonga gave him the keys to her apartment and car and then left with another man, whom Williams identified as Corey Smith, the warrant said.
But on April 27, Williams gave police the passcode for his phone after initially refusing to do so. According to police, the digital data revealed that Williams had indeed spent April 6 and 7 at Belonga’s home.
Digital forensics revealed the two met on Facebook on December 12, 2022 and spoke to each other daily, the warrant said.
According to the warrant, the two sent each other photos, and Williams called Belonga “beautiful” and “sweetheart.” The news revealed that on April 3 they exchanged addresses and Williams was traveling from Tatum to Tyler with plans to spend five nights with Belonga at her apartment, the warrant said.
Before and after Williams left, he allegedly conducted a series of internet searches that police called suspicious, including “how to muffle the sound of a gun with a sock” and “how do cops locate a cell phone?”
The warrant said forensic evidence showed that Williams searched online for “body found in Rusk County, Texas” on April 9, the day Belonga was reported missing, and the day after “How long will it take?” it till a corpse decays?” hot weather.”
Based on the locations mentioned in his internet story, police conducted a search and found Belonga’s gold necklace by the side of the road and a “small bone” about 15 meters away on May 22, the warrant said.
According to inmate records, Williams is being held at the Smith County Jail on $750,000 bail.
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