A man accused of raping and killing a Windsor, Ont., woman while her nine-year-old son lay frightened in the next room has been arrested in the U.S., according to documents filed in an American court.
Jitesh Bhogal, 27, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and break and enter in the death of Autumn Taggart on June 10. He was arrested in Washington state this month, and Windsor police said they are seeking his extradition to Canada.
“Our investigators did a tremendous amount of round-the-clock work on this case,” said Windsor police Sgt. Steve Betteridge. “Teamwork with our counterparts in the U.S. ultimately ended with a successful arrest.”
Betteridge declined to discuss particulars of the force’s investigation but documents filed by American attorneys in Washington state contained detailed allegations that have yet to be tested in court.
In a complaint filed the day before Bhogal was taken into custody, State Attorney Annette Hayes mapped out a chronology that she attributes largely to the Windsor police.
According to that document, 31-year-old Taggart, who police said was also known as Maya Madolyn, was last seen alive on June 9 when she went shopping with her son and her son’s father.
After being dropped off at home with her child, Taggart continued to exchange text messages with her son’s father throughout the evening, the complaint said. There was no evidence to suggest she left her home later that day.
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According to statements Taggart’s son provided to police, someone entered the apartment at some point before Sunday morning, the complaint alleged.
“An unknown male entered his bedroom and told him to stay in bed and go to sleep,” the complaint alleged. “(The boy) had never seen the man before … (The child) heard a girl screaming sometime after the man entered his room, but did not get up to investigate because he was scared.”
When Taggart’s son eventually got up for the day, according to the complaint, he found his mother still in bed. He spent the day eating cookies and watching videos, but eventually texted his father on Sunday evening to say that “mommy won’t wake up,” the complaint said.
The boy’s father came to the apartment and was among those who reported Taggart’s death to police, the complaint said.
The document also contains details of an interview conducted with Taggart’s neighbour days after her death. The woman told police that she and her boyfriend purchased and used cocaine with Bhogal in the early hours of June 10, the complaint alleged.
The phone number used during the drug transaction was later matched to one registered to Bhogal, the complaint alleged.
The neighbour told police that Bhogal’s vehicle was parked outside Taggart’s building for at least a couple of hours and was gone by roughly 6:15 a.m., the complaint alleged.
Hayes’ complaint said police noted that an SUV parked near the building appeared to have a footprint on the roof, that architectural features of the building offered easy hand or footholds if someone wished to climb the walls, and that the balcony of Taggart’s third-floor unit appeared to have sustained damage.
“A person could have climbed from the top of the SUV onto an exterior balcony,” it reads.
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Bhogal, a Canadian citizen, lived and worked in Michigan just over the border from Windsor, the complaint said. He allegedly travelled to Washington state where his parents live near Seattle and expressed a desire to relocate there soon after Taggart’s death, even going so far as to obtain a state driver’s license, the document said.
Meanwhile, investigators in Windsor performed an autopsy on Taggart and found evidence of blunt-force trauma, sexual assault and possible neck compression, the complaint said.
Authorities extracted a DNA sample that contained genetic material from both her and an unknown man, the complaint said.
Later, at the request of Windsor police, U.S. investigators followed Bhogal to a bar and extracted a sample of his DNA from a glass he had been using. The sample matched the one recovered from Taggart’s body, the complaint alleged.
Bhogal, whose lawyer did not respond to request for comment, is being held in custody pending an extradition hearing. Documents indicate he’s due back in a U.S. court on Aug. 31.
The Canadian Press