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Crime News Breaking News

Missing Tennessee Woman's Body Found, Boyfriend Charged With Murder

Jason Chen, 22, was been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, 22-year-old Jasmine Pace, whose body was found on Thursday.

By Caitlin Schunn
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The boyfriend of a missing 22-year-old Tennessee woman whose body was found on Thursday was charged with her murder on Wednesday after Chattanooga police said blood stains and other evidence were found in his apartment. 

Jason Chen, 22, is currently in custody and facing a first-degree murder charge for the death of Jasmine Pace. Chen is a student at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, according to Chattanooga ABC/Fox station WTVC. Police believe Chen and Pace had been in a casual dating relationship for a few months.

Police announced on Thursday afternoon that they found Pace's body near a small park in northern Chattanooga, according to Chattanooga NBC affiliate WRCB.

Pace's family last saw her on Nov. 22, the Dade County Sheriff's Office said in a release, when they said they thought her plan was to leave Chattanooga for a few days.

Pace’s mother, Catrina, said her daughter then shared her location around 2:18 a.m. on Nov. 23 using a pin drop through text messaging, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by WTVC.  Pace’s parents traveled to the location of the pin, which turned out to be Chen’s apartment complex.

A police handout of Jasmine Pace

The document said that, in Chen’s apartment, Catrina Pace found her daughter’s driver’s license and multiple credit cards, but no sign of either Chen or her daughter. The affidavit says a neighbor told Catrina Pace that they'd heard a loud disturbance around 2:00 a.m. that day.

Bailey Putman, Jasmine’s childhood friend, told WRCB that a Facebook post was subsequently made on Jasmine’s account — though not from Jasmine's phone  — in which she claimed to be spending Thanksgiving with "her baby." Her friends and family don’t believe she posted it herself because it was set to "Public" instead of "Private" — and said that the picture is several years old, because had tattoos on her right shoulder and upper arm at the time of her disappearance that don't appear in the photo.

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WRCB reports that Jasmine's mom also received a message from Jasmine last week saying she was going to visit a friend in South Carolina. That friend has told family that she had no plans for Jasmine to visit and that she now lives in Kentucky.

Putman added that police have told the family that Jasmine's phone hadn't been active since Nov. 23, though her social media accounts had been. The family hasn't heard anything else from her since she left that day.

“That’s so very unlike her,” Putman, Jasmine’s childhood friend, told WRCB. “There’s not a day they don’t hear from Jasmine, let alone an hour.”

Her family, worried that she'd missed Thanksgiving dinner, tracked her vehicle to an apartment complex in north Chattanooga — four miles north of her last known location — on Nov. 26, according to the Chattanoogan, and reported her missing. The apartment complex is less than a mile from where her body was found on Thursday.

During a press conference Wednesday, police said that their missing person investigation had become a homicide investigation on Sunday. 

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During a warranted search that day, police say they found blood stains on the hardwood floor of Chen's living room, in his bathroom and on the bedroom carpet, according to the affidavit.  Police also found recently purchased cleaning supplies.

A forensic team further found there had previously been more blood in the living room, bathroom and bedroom that had been cleaned up before the search, the affidavit also reported. Police also found broken glass in the apartment, and other evidence showing a violent altercation had occurred.

Surveillance footage cited in the affidavit also reportedly shows Chen leaving his apartment building with a mask on his face and black fabric wrapped around his hand.

Through RTIC camera footage and the MyChevyApp tracking service, the affidavit said police determined that Chen had driven Pace’s car before it was found on Saturday to his family's home in Nolensville, Tennessee — which is near Nashville. That is where police found Chen and took him into custody on Wednesday. He still had cuts on his hand at the time of his arrest.

“The outpouring of true love and support from the community this past week has meant more than I can explain,” Catrina Pace said in a Facebook post before the discovery of her daughter's body. “We will live with it for the rest of our lives.  Please continue to stand behind us.”

Right now, police say Chen is the only person facing charges, but their investigation continues. He’s expected in court next Tuesday.