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Man Charged with Murder for Allegedly Killing and Dismembering Girlfriend, Hiding Her Remains in Storage Facility

Joseph Jorgenson allegedly dismembered his girlfriend before hiding her remains in coolers and a duffle bag at a storage facility in Minnesota. 

By Elisabeth Ford
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A Minnesota man has been charged with killing and dismembering his girlfriend and dumping her remains in a storage facility.

Joseph Steven Jorgenson, 40, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the disappearance and death of 34-year-old Manijeh "Mani" Starren, whose family reported her missing in early May, NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported.

Starren’s family said they last had contact with her on April 18 by phone, according to court documents obtained by Law & Crime.

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Surveillance video from Starren’s apartment building showed her running from her apartment on April 21. It then showed Jorgenson running after her, grabbing her, turning her around and pushing her back into her apartment.

There was no footage of Starren leaving her apartment anytime after that, the documents stated.

But surveillance video reportedly showed Jorgenson coming and going from Starren’s apartment in the week following the incident. According to prosecutors, he went into the apartment 28 times over the course of the week.

A mugshot of Joseph Jorgenson

The video also caught Jorgenson carrying two duffle bags and a suitcase from the apartment on April 28, according to court documents. Jorgenson allegedly loaded the luggage into a pickup truck registered to his roommate, got into the passenger seat and drove off.

When police searched Starren’s apartment, they found the TV screen cracked, the microwave glass shattered, a chunk of a foam mattress pad on the bed missing and red stains at the foot of the bed. The property manager said there were also missing items from the woman’s closet.

Crime scene investigators found traces of large quantities of blood in the living room and kitchen, which looked as if someone attempted to clean up.

According to court documents, friends and family said Starren was a “neat freak,” and her apartment was normally well kept.

Investigators also found evidence that Jorgenson used Starren’s bank card several times to buy cleaning supplies from a dollar store, including a cleaning bucket, two boxes of saran wrap, paper towels, garbage bags, liquid cleaner, latex gloves and disinfectant wipes.

Police obtained a search warrant for Jorgenson’s Google account, which revealed Jorgenson’s unusual search history, including searches on how to clear cookie data from a phone, missing person’s reports and “lime for soil.”

“Lime can be used to speed up the decomposition process of a body and to reduce the smell of decomposition,” court documents stated.

When police executed a search warrant on Jorgenson’s Maplewood home, the man barricaded himself in his bedroom and started a fire. He then charged at the officers, attempting to disarm them.

Jorgenson faces charges of arson and trying to disarm a peace officer, in addition to second-degree murder, KARE 11 reported.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for a storage unit in Woodbury, Minnesota — rented under Jorgenson’s roommate’s name — where “a strong odor consistent with decomposing flesh was noticed outside the storage unit,” according to court documents.

It was in the unit where investigators found two coolers and a duffle bag, which an autopsy confirmed to have been storing Starren’s remains.

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“We also cannot fathom the pain the family is feeling at this point, but we do hope that this investigation's result will bring them some level of solace," Sgt. Mike Ernster, a public information officer for the Saint Paul Police Department, said at a press conference Friday.

Sgt. Ernster added that his department has reason to believe Jorgenson is connected to another missing persons case.

Fanta Xayavong was last seen with Jorgenson in July 2021, but was not reported missing until May 2023, according to KARE 11. Investigators learned of a possible relationship between Jorgenson and Xayavong during their investigation into Starren.

Police ask that anyone with information regarding her whereabouts call 651-291-1111.

Jorgenson remains held at Ramsey County Jail, KARE 11 reported, and will make his first court appearance Friday afternoon.

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