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TikTok Video Showing Discovery Of Suitcase Containing Remains Of Murdered Couple Vanishes After Family Pleads For Its Removal
“I don’t want them to be just remembered as, you know, plastic bags — that’s not who they were,” Jessica Lewis’ aunt said of her niece and boyfriend Austin Wenner. “These were actual people and I want everyone to know that.”
A TikTok video showing a group of teens stumble across luggage filled with remains of murder victims has been taken down after the victims’ family demanded its removal.
The remains, belonging to longtime couple Jessica Lewis, 35, and Austin Wenner, 27 were identified shortly after the suitcase was found at a West Seattle beach on June 19.
Michael Dudley, their landlord, is suspected in their slayings following a dispute over rent, according to court documents obtained by Seattle television station KING-TV. He allegedly shot and dismembered the pair. Dudley was arrested earlier this month.
In the now-removed TikTok clip documenting the morbid discovery, a number of teens can be seen joking around while participating in a seaside scavenger hunt. At one point, they come across a black suitcase resting atop a patch of seaweed-entangled rocks.
One of the youths is later pictured lifting the flap of the luggage with a stick; inside are “several” plastic bags, which were later found to contain the remains of Lewis and Wenner were later found, police said.
“Something traumatic happened that changed my life,” TikTok user UghHenry wrote in the video’s caption.
The video quickly went viral. However, it disappeared from TikTok on Saturday, the BBC reported. Wenner and Lewis’ families had previously fought to have it removed.
“That video went viral and there’s nothing we could do to change that,” Gina Jaschke, Lewis’ aunt, told the BBC. “Nobody knew that was going to happen. Those kids didn’t know. Nobody knew.”
Jaschke explained she was ultimately grateful that the teenagers reported the ghastly discovery to police.
“I wanted to thank those kids because there could have been a possibility that nobody found the suitcases and we would have never known what would have happened to them,” she said.
It’s unclear whether TikTok removed the video or whether the user who posted it was responsible for its disappearance from the platform.
TikTok had previously said the video wasn’t subject to removal because it hadn’t broken any rules.
"We found that the video did not violate our guidelines, as it did not include any visuals of the remains,” the company said. “We have been in touch with the family to explain this decision."
However, a transparency report, authored by TikTok and published in July, also states that the platform does not "allow content that is excessively gruesome or shocking, especially that promotes or glorifies abject violence or suffering."
TikTok said it removed 49,247,689 videos in 2019.
Lewis’ family described the couple as “inseparable.” They had been dating for roughly eight years.
“Through the good times and the hard times, you got one, you got the other,” Jaschke, Lewis’ aunt, told the BBC. “And they were just in sync with each other like that. I want people to know who they were. Who they were. They were good-hearted people.”
Lewis, the mother of four children, worked at an assisted care home in Everett, Washington, the Seattle Times reported. Wenner, had a “big heart,” enjoyed the outdoors, campfires, and country music, according to a statement from his family. His nickname was “Cash.”
“I don’t want them to be just remembered as, you know, plastic bags — that’s not who they were,” Jascchke added. “These were actual people and I want everyone to know that.”