Bail denied for man in dismemberment case


Defendant switches story from suicide to self-defense killing

An Aloha man accused of murdering and dismembering his roommate’s body in May will remain in jail and likely face trial sometime next year.

In a bail release hearing on Sept. 6, Washington County prosecutors successfully argued that Christian Delaurentiis should stay behind bars without bail for his role in the stabbing murder and dismemberment of 43-year-old Phillip Lindemuth.

Initially claiming he dismembered the body following Lindemuth’s suicide, Delaurentiis later told investigators he stabbed his roommate in self-defense during an argument about the pair’s apparent involvement with bank robberies.DELAURENTIIS

According to Washington County Sheriff’s Office Det. Jim George in a court affidavit, deputies on May 16 searched the house Delaurentiis and Lindemuth shared after learning the suspect confessed to a cousin of killing his roommate. Grants Pass resident James Early, stepfather of Delaurentiis, said the cousin told him his stepson cut up Lindemuth’s body and stored pieces of the body in a freezer.

The suspect was arrested May 17 after he was seen driving Lindemuth’s car.

George testified before Washington County Circuit Judge Thomas Kohl of the grisly evidence investigators found at the Aloha home Delaurentiis and Lindemuth shared for several months earlier this year. Consistent with Washington County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Larry Newman’s report that Lindemuth died from deep stab wounds to the chest, George said the victim was stabbed with a knife multiple times, penetrating Lindemuth’s heart and lungs.

At first claiming Lindemuth committed suicide, Delaurentiis said he “panicked” when he came across the body. Using various saws and hand tools, he told George he chopped up his roommate’s body, placing pieces in a freezer in the garage. The suspect said it took two days. According to the affidavit, he later told George his roommate died on May 3, and it took him two weeks to cut the body parts to smaller pieces. LINDEMUTH

Making a call from jail, Delaurentiis was recorded telling his mother he did not kill his roommate, but offered, “Did I dismember him in a bathtub and stick him in a freezer? Yes.”

A search of the home on May 18 uncovered Lindemuth’s dismembered body in the chest freezer in the garage, along with evidence on cutting tools, blood and pieces of flesh found throughout the house. At least two neighbors testified of hearing hammering, banging and power tools running in the early morning hours around May 17.

Karen Cunningham, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified Delaurentiis matched the description of a suspect in at least six bank robberies across Portland and Southern Oregon. During the house search, deputies found evidence of the robberies — involving US Bank branches in Wilsonville and Medford, among other banks — such as wigs, clothing and holdup notes.

Washington County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lesowski said Delaurentiis told his cousin, who lives in New York City, that he killed his roommate to keep him quiet about the robberies.

“He had, in fact, intentionally killed the victim, stabbing him, and claiming he did so in self defense,” Lesowski said on Sept. 6. “All these versions came after he told his cousin, Jill O’Neil from New York, he had intentionally killed the victim because he thought the victim would rat him out for the (robberies).”

Lindemuth worked for a technology-based company near Aloha but was laid off sometime in 2010 or 2011, Lesowski said, adding that other than a misdemeanor related to intoxicated driving, the victim “did not have a significant criminal history.”

He described the victim and defendant as “friends and roommates.”

“The victim owned the house and let (Delaurentiis) stay with him, probably four or five months before the killing,” Lesowski noted.

Following a Washington County grand jury review, Delaurentiis was indicted May 29 on charges of aggravated murder and abuse of a corpse. He was arraigned the next day.

Requesting another meeting with George, the defendant admitted killing Lindemuth on May 3, but in self-defense during an argument over Lindemuth not “pulling his weight” on recent bank robberies, according to the affidavit. Delaurentiis also said they argued because his roommate, who was homosexual, wanted to have sexual contact with him.

“The suspect denies he was (sexually) involved with the victim,” Lesowski said. “There was a layer of domestic violence, but we’re taking this as a straightforward murder to cover up the (bank) robberies.

“All I know for sure,” he added, “is the victim died of multiple stab wounds to the chest, a pierced heart and lungs, his body was meticulously dismembered, and the defendant told multiple stories about what happened.”

Based on forensic evidence and the defendant’s statements to relatives about his actions and motives, Lesowski asked the judge to deny bail.

Defense attorney Conor Huseby asked for bail to be set, claiming there were too many unknowns from the night of the argument to determine if a murder had taken place. Judge Kohl denied Huseby’s request.

The attorneys were scheduled to meet with Kohl this week to set a trial date for Delaurentiis.