Lexington County man sentenced to life in brutal murder of estranged wife

Lexington County man sentenced to life in brutal murder of estranged wife

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Lexington County man accused of brutally killing his estranged wife just weeks before their divorce was to be finalized has been found guilty.

It took jurors just over an hour to find Jason Lee guilty of murder and first-degree burglary. The jury received the case at 12:30 Friday afternoon and arrived at its verdict at 1:32 p.m.

The decision came after jurors listened to almost two hours of closing arguments. Prosecutors pointed to the crucial pieces of blue latex found at the scene with Jason Lee’s DNA on them.

“Would a complete stranger inflict that kind of violence on Lindsey Lee?” Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham asked the jury during his closing arguments. “No, but Jason Lee did.”

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Lee was also facing a first-degree burglary charge as was included in the indictment. Graham asked the jury if it was truly a random break-in, why nothing was reported missing or stolen from the house by family members.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a man with hatred and anger in his heart, struggling financially and on the brink of divorce. Lindsey Lee, on the other hand, was happily dating, had lost more than 130 pounds and was ready to move on with her life, according to friends.

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

Prosecutors believe Lee drove from his Simpsonville apartment to Lee’s West Columbia home on the evening of March 13, 2017. Once there, they said he picked the back door’s lock, as he was a locksmith by trade. Then, they said, he waited for Lee to arrive home. When she did, she was attacked in her foyer, groceries in hand. Testimony from the medical examiner revealed Lee was choked, beaten and had her throat cut, before being placed in the bathtub.

That bathroom, significant to Jason Lee, prosecutors said.

“Who had pictures of the remodeling project in that bathroom?” Graham asked the jury. “Jason Lee did. He had remodeled that bathroom to win her back and it didn’t work.”

Jason Lee’s lack of DNA inside the house proves he planned the attack and killing, Graham said. He told the jury Lee wore blue latex gloves during the crime, to make sure his DNA wasn’t found inside the house. He said it explains why Lee’s DNA was not found on the dials of the laundry machine, which contained Lindsey Lee’s jacket the night she was killed.

After leaving Lee in the bathtub bleeding out, Graham said Lee went out to her car and planted a bag of marijuana inside the glovebox, potentially to make it appear as if Lee had been robbed and killed by a drug dealer.

“She didn’t do drugs, according to her friends and family,” Graham said. “So why was Jason Lee’s DNA found on the bag? Because he put it there.”

After the killing, prosecutors said Lee returned to Simpsonville, where he drove his personal car to a Walmart parking lot. He is seen on surveillance video walking through several nearby businesses parking lots, presumably walking home to his apartment, Graham said. He returns in his work van a short time later and parks right next to his personal car. After about four minutes, he drives his work van to the front entrance of the Walmart, goes inside and makes several purchases and leaves.

“He was moving something in between vehicles,” Graham said. “He was trying to distance himself from his car because it was the car he drove to Columbia to kill Lindsey in.”

Later, Lee would tell SLED agents he woke up at his apartment complex that morning to find his car missing. Additionally, data collected from Lee’s FitBit found no activity on the evening of Lee’s murder to the early morning hours of March 14. An expert who testified found that unusual, as that long of a gap was never previously recorded on his FitBit.

Defense attorneys argued if Lee had planned the killing, he would not have left behind the small pieces of latex containing his DNA. When Lee was initially questioned by SLED agents the day his ex-wife’s body was found, he had several scratches on his face. He told co-workers they were from his cat while telling agents it was the result of dry shaving. Defense attorney Jim Snell argued none of the scratches resembled a full set of fingernails.

Lee’s DNA was not found on the dials of the home’s washing machine, which Snell said is “as close to proving innocence as it gets.” Instead, an unidentified person’s DNA was found on the knobs. Investigators found Lee’s jacket still wet inside the washing machine when they responded to the crime scene. It would later be discovered it was the jacket Lee was last seen alive in.

Upon hearing the guilty verdicts, Sheriff Jay Koon and Lieutenant Olyn Sexton spoke on behalf of Lee’s family members.

“All of us are having to go through our daily lives without an important person to us,” said Sexton. “She was something that was unstoppable and when she set her mind to something, it was going to get taken care of. Whether it be working on computers at the sheriff’s department, whether it be her fitness, whether it be her counting out 24 almonds because that’s what she was allowed to eat that day, she was serious about those things and she always put her mind to it and took care of other people before she would take care of herself.”

Sheriff Jay Koon said the case is one his department has been grappling with for the last two and a half years.

“We’ll just remind you that the defendant, in this case, handed down three sentences that night,” he said. “He gave Lindsey a death sentence and he gave two life sentences. One to her immediate family and one to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s family, and we’ll be living with that for the rest of our lives.”

Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. handed down life sentences on both convictions, but not before Lee himself stood up to address the judge, surprising the courtroom.

“The only thing I have to say is I didn’t do it and I will be appealing this and I will be coming back on appeal,” Lee said. “I did not murder Lindsey Lee and I want that on the record. I am an innocent man, I did not murder her and I will prove my innocence and I don’t care if it takes 20 years, I will prove my innocence.”

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