A Puyallup man accused of suffocating his ex-girlfriend when she stopped at his apartment to get her belongings was charged with second-degree murder Monday.
Michael Anthony Lee pleaded not guilty in the death of 47-year-old Ethelyn Rojas.
Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set bail at $1 million during Lee’s arraignment in Pierce County Superior Court.
According to court records and police:
Rojas told a co-worker Wednesday that she was going to stop by her ex’s home to get her belongings.
Her fiance told police early Thursday that Rojas hadn’t showed up to work, which he said was unusual. He couldn’t get a hold of her and drove to apartments in the 2500 block of South Meridian where he knew the 60-year-old Lee lives.
That’s where he saw her vehicle.
No one answered the door to Lee’s apartment when officers tried to contact him, but he answered the phone after multiple calls.
Lee told them he hadn’t spoken to Rojas in about a week.
Officers felt the situation was urgent and had property management let them into the apartment, where they found Rojas’ body covered by a blanket on the floor of a bedroom.
In another bedroom, they found Lee underneath a blanket, acting as though he was sleeping.
On his way to Pierce County Jail, he allegedly told officers that he wanted to tell them what had happened.
“He told detectives that Rojas was playing with his heart and his mind and he was tired of it,” deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer wrote in the declaration for determination of probable cause.
Lee said he packed Rojas’ things in a bin for her to pick up, gave her access to them and went to the balcony.
He alleged that she called him back inside and that she grabbed his arm when he tried to walk away.
“Lee said he spun her to the ground, straddled her, and put his hand over her nose and mouth until she stopped breathing,” Ausserer wrote. “He told detectives that Rojas was clearly dead, so he covered her body with a blanket and went to his bedroom to lie down until he was awakened by police.”
Neighbors told police that they heard a few minutes of yelling and screaming from the apartment about 5:30 p.m.
Lee then drove away in Rojas’ vehicle and returned soon after. Neighbors said they then heard two loud slams.
According to the court records, one neighbor knocked on the door and said Lee answered and reported that the argument was over and that: “She was done.”
About a dozen of Rojas’ loved ones were in court Monday, and some held up photos of her as Lee walked into court.