A Minnesota man has been charged with murdering and dismembering his girlfriend and leaving behind a mountain of evidence—including a Google search for the word “jugular” the day she disappeared.
And in a grim twist, police have learned that another woman tied to the suspect has been missing for two years. “To put it bluntly, we’re concerned for her safety also,” Saint Paul Police Sgt. Mike Ernster said at a press conference.
Joseph Jorgenson, 40, barricaded himself in his Maplewood bedroom and started a fire when police following the trail of clues left behind showed up at his apartment to search it last week, according to a criminal complaint. He allegedly tried to grab a SWAT officer’s AR-15 but was arrested.
Two days later, police discovered the chopped-up remains of Manjieh “Mani” Starren in coolers at a storage facility where a unit had been rented under the name of Jorgenson’s roommate, the complaint said.
“Thank you to the officers for following every lead,” Starren’s brother wrote on Facebook after her body was found. “My beautiful sister you will be missed greatly! Heaven has gotten a new Angel and we haven’t stopped looking and found you to bring you home!… Hope you are sitting with Grandpa fishing and watching dolphins up there fly high! I LOVE YOU!!”
According to her family, the mother of three struggled with addiction and was supposed to enter treatment in April but never made it there. The last time anyone had contact with her was April 21 when she spoke by phone with the father of one of her children.
Her own father reported her missing on May 1, and soon after, police learned that she was allegedly the victim of domestic violence. Her son’s father relayed to investigators that she said Jorgenson had once wrapped a rope around her neck, and a neighbor reported seeing her with a black eye and red marks on her neck.
The neighbor asked Starren if she wanted to call police, but the 33-year-old told her: “It will just make things worse.”
Investigators began collecting evidence that pointed to a grim outcome, starting with security video that showed Starren running from her apartment on April 21, and Jorgenson pulling her back in, police said.
She was never seen on video again. But Jorgenson was caught on camera coming in and out of the apartment 28 times in the following week—and once he was seen carrying a suitcase and duffle bags into his roommate’s pickup truck.
Inside Starren’s apartment, police found a scene of chaos: a cracked TV and microwave; the sheet pulled off the bed with a large piece of a foam pad cut out; and blood on the couch, in the living room, and in the kitchen that would later be revealed as the victim’s.
The manager of the building where Jorgenson lived told police that residents had complained around May 15 or 16 of a stench from his apartment that smelled like something had died.
“Shortly afterwards, the manager and maintenance employee saw Jorgenson carrying and dragging large black duffle bags out of the apartment. They commented to each other that it looked like Jorgenson was ‘carrying a dead body,’” the complaint says.
Police would later find blood in a closet in the apartment, along with “recent maggot activity,” according to the complaint. They also found two padlock keys that matched the storage unit, where cellphone records show that Jorgenson had been on May 18.
In addition to the physical evidence, investigators found Jorgenson had repeatedly used Starren’s food-stamps card, had purchased a large amount of cleaning supplies, and had made some unusual Google searches.
On April 21, he searched for “Jugular.”
On May 1, he searched: “What do police do with a missing person’s report.”
On May 3, he Googled, “How to clear cookies from android phone.”
On May 27, he looked up: “How to remove gps lime scooter.”
On June 4, Jorgenson Googled, “Lime for soil.” The complaint noted that “lime can be used to speed up the decomposition process of a body and to reduce the smell of decomposition.”
Detectives said they also found two threatening messages Jorgenson sent to Starren two weeks before she vanished.
“N u owe me 2 bc u called the cops on me 2 times. Very clear I was of that being punishable by hanging. I’m giving u this plea bargain opportunity. So yw,” one read. The other said: “Hope u die of a kidney infection u bitch c*** terrible f***ing mother.”
In the course of investigating the killing of Starren, police learned that another missing woman, Fanta Xayavong, 33, was last seen with Jorgenson before she disappeared in July 2021, according to KARE.