Trial begins for Lexington County man accused of killing estranged wife in 2017

Updated: Nov. 19, 2019 at 6:29 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - A Lexington County jury began hearing testimony Monday morning in a brutal domestic violence killing that took place in 2017, claiming the life of an IT employee of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

Lindsey Lee, 31, was found dead inside her West Columbia home on March 14, 2017. Her body, according to investigators, was placed in a bathtub with the water running. Prosecutors said she was choked and her throat was slashed.

Trial begins for Lexington County man accused of killing estranged wife in 2017
Trial begins for Lexington County man accused of killing estranged wife in 2017(Caroline Hecker)

Her estranged husband, Jason Lee, was arrested and charged with her killing. He is pleading not guilty.

Monday morning, prosecutors painted a picture of a troubled marriage that was headed for divorce. The two were separated for about a year before Lee was found dead. In that time, friends testified, Lee had lost more than 100 pounds, was happily dating and ready to move on from her marriage. The couple’s divorce was mere weeks from being finalized, prosecutors said.

“Jason Lee just couldn’t let her go,” said Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham.

Prosecutors allege he broke into the home the two once shared and waited for her to get home. On the night of her death, Lindsey Lee had made a stop at Walmart after her workout to buy some groceries. Those groceries were found scattered around the foyer of her home by investigators just 24 hours later. Prosecutors told the jury it’s where Lee was first attacked by her estranged husband.

Corporal Shannon Lovell with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department testified he was good friends with Lee. He and his girlfriend, another IT employee, had gone on several double dates with the couple. He stopped by Lee’s house on the morning of March 14, 2017, after receiving a call from his girlfriend, who was concerned after Lee hadn’t shown up for work.

“We went around the back and saw splintering around the door frame of the back door,” Lovell said. “As soon as I saw the door was breached, I backed away and called for backup.”

When backup arrived, Lovell went inside the home, where he testified all of the lights were off. After clearing several rooms, he and another deputy entered the bathroom, where he said he heard the water in the tub running.

“It took us a couple of seconds,” he said. “It was shocking because it was one of our friends. She was laid in the bathtub, almost coffin style. I immediately saw the water running and cut off the water. Her head was turned a little bit and I could see a deep gash in her throat.”

From there, investigators with SLED processed the scene, collecting DNA evidence, looking for the presence of blood and photographing the scene. SLED investigators testified about finding Lee’s jacket in the washing machine, still wet. In the pocket, they found her wallet. Blood was found in the foyer as well as the bathroom where her body was discovered.

Jason Lee was at work at a locksmith company in Greenville County when SLED agents showed up to his office, asking to speak with him, his co-worker testified.

Kendall Haskett said the morning of March 14, Lee came to work with a large scratch on his face.

“He came in the door and it kind of took me aback, I said, ‘what happened to your face? and he proceeded to tell me his cat scratched his face, he had a cat that was sleeping on him, his alarm went off and the cat scratched his face,” Haskett told the jury. “ I probably wouldn’t have that cat anymore if I were him, we both kind of laughed and everyone went about their business.”

Prosecutors allege the scratches were defensive wounds from Lindsey Lee, fighting back against her husband before ultimately dying.

When SLED agents arrived, they took Lee outside to explain to him that his wife had been killed. They testified he began crying and asking how she died.

Haskett said when he asked Lee about SLED talking to him, Lee joked, “I might leave here in handcuffs.”

Lee’s defense told the jury he was not in the Midlands the evening of March 13, 2017, and did not kill his estranged wife. Instead, they said, he was asleep at his Greenville apartment after a long day at work.

“What happened to Lindsey is horrible and very tragic, but Mr. Lee is not responsible,” said Lee’s attorney.

Testimony is expected to continue this week.

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