A 25-year-old man allegedly used a heavy backpack to beat his girlfriend to death outside of a Kent 7-Eleven store.
King County prosecutors charged Joviah Sebastian Jamerson, of Burien, on May 24 with second-degree murder in the May 13 death of Maria Apodaca-Tift, 25, of SeaTac. Jamerson is in the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $3 million.
“Grabbing her by her clothing, he drags her to the ground and beats her with his backpack in full view of several witnesses,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gretchen Holmgren in charging papers. “Due to her injuries, the victim bled to death internally over the course of the next hour.”
Kent Police arrested Jamerson May 23 in downtown Kent, 10 days after the killing. Apodaca-Tift died following a dispute with Jamerson at a 7-Eleven store, 22422 83rd Ave. S., according to Kent Police. Officers responded at about 1:39 a.m. May 13 in reference to a woman inside the store who needed medical aid. Apodaca-Tift died at the scene.
Jamerson and Apodaca-Tift had a prior dating relationship and share a 1-year-old child, according to charging documents. Between September 2018 and June 2021, Jamerson was convicted of six misdemeanor domestic violence offenses with Apodaca-Tift.
In 2018, Jamerson assaulted Apodaca-Tift at a Lowe’s store, pushing her to the ground and hitting her shoulder with a closed fist. He plead guilty to fourth-degree assault and signed a no-contact order, according to court records. He was subsequently convicted of violating that order, and others, five times.
On May 13 in Kent, a witness told police that he, Apodaca-Tift (whom he just met) and a man he did not know (later identified as Jamerson), walked together from the Ramada Inn to the nearby 7-Eleven. As they walked, Apodaca-Tift was telling Jamerson to leave them alone, according to the witness.
Jamerson reportedly yelled at Apodaca-Tift and threatened her, according to the witness. When they reached the store, they continued to argue. During the argument, Jamerson swung and hit Apodaca-Tift once with his backpack. Apodaca-Tift reportedly said, “You’re going to jail for that.”
Jamerson allegedly responded by continuing to strike her with his backpack. She fell to the ground and covered her head with her arms as Jamerson raised his backpack again and again as she laid on the concrete sidewalk, according to charging papers.
Video surveillance from the 7-Eleven reportedly showed Jamerson during several of the strikes with his backpack against Apodaca-Tift were done with a two-handed overhead swing. The video recorded approximately six swings, striking her in the head and the left side of her body, according to court documents. Jamerson then fled from the store parking lot.
A bystander assisted Apodaca-Tift to her feet and into the store. Within moments, she collapsed again. A clerk and additional witnesses called 911.
Apodaca-Tift died from internal bleeding due to blunt force injury of the torso, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Detectives discovered that Apodaca-Tift was the protected person in a number of domestic violence no-contact orders against Jamerson, including incidents in Auburn, Federal Way and Kent.
Descriptions from a witness and video surveillance were used to identify Jamerson. Another witness, who was familiar with Jamerson and Apodaca-Tift, according to police, identified Jamerson when shown video from the 7-Eleven incident. Another witness told police he thought the backpack had something heavy in it. He said he heard a heavy “thump” sound when Apodaca-Tift was struck.
After police took Jamerson into custody, he declined to speak with detectives.
The death of Apodaca-Tift is the seventh homicide in 2023 in Kent. The city had 11 homicides in 2022, 14 in 2021, eight in 2020, four in 2019 and seven in 2018.
Domestic violence resources
• Local: dawnrising.org
• Regional crisis line: 866-427-4747 or crisisconnections.org/24-hour-crisis-line
• National DV Hotline/multiple languages: 800-799-7233