Judge sets $5 million bond for man accused of killing Chattanooga woman Jasmine Pace

Staff photo by Olivia Ross  / Jason Chen stands with his attorney Josh Weiss in court Tuesday.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Jason Chen stands with his attorney Josh Weiss in court Tuesday.

Bond for a man charged with the homicide of Chattanooga woman Jasmine Pace was set at $5 million Friday, following a hearing that shed more light on the incident.

Jason Chen, 22, sat silently during his second court appearance in a week in front of Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Larry Ables. Behind him, the courtroom was standing room only for nearly two hours, filled with Pace's family and other supporters.

Pace, whose body was found Dec. 1 near Suck Creek, appeared to have been stabbed around 60 times, Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Cogswell testified during Friday's hearing.

Pace had been reported missing a few days earlier.

"That is six-zero," Cogswell said.

(READ MORE: Jason Chen, charged in death of Jasmine Pace, appears in court)

Chattanooga investigator Zack Crawford testified at the hearing that the blood found in Chen's Tremont Street apartment was the "largest amount that (he's) ever seen."

Blood samples from Chen's apartment were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and found to match genetic material taken from Pace's toothbrush, Crawford told District Attorney General Coty Wamp at the hearing.

Chen has been held at Silverdale Detention Center without bond since his arrest Nov. 29 in his hometown of Nolensville, Tennessee.

(READ MORE: Suspect arrested in disappearance of Chattanooga's Jasmine Pace, now ruled a homicide)

Pace, who, according to her Facebook page was a student at Chattanooga State Community College since September 2017, was reported missing Nov. 27 after her family hadn't heard from her for a few days.

Ables, the judge presiding over Chen's case, said he was required to set bond since the state has not sought capital punishment. To get out of confinement on a $5 million bond in Tennessee, a defendant would need to post $500,000.

Josh Weiss, the attorney representing Chen, asked the court to set bond at $250,000.

If Chen does post bond, he would be placed on house arrest and made to surrender his passport, Ables ruled.

New information

Cogswell, the medical examiner, said Pace was found with multiple wounds that may have been fatal.

Her chest appeared to have been stabbed several times in the same place, Cogswell said. A roughly 2-inch piece of a knife was also found in her chest cavity, after apparently breaking off.

Pace's body was found shackled in a "fetal position" wrapped in trash bags inside a suitcase that was caught on vegetation in Suck Creek, Cogswell said. She had stab or cut wounds on the back of her shoulder that punctured her lungs, the examiner added.

Cuts on her left hand and arm also looked like "defensive wounds," Cogswell testified, that can come from trying to ward off a weapon.

Chen's mother, who lives at the Nolensville home where he was found and arrested, served as Chen's sole witness Friday.

She testified, through a Mandarin interpreter participating by phone, that she became worried for her son after a man appeared at their home asking questions about his connection to a missing girl.

Chen, who was in Chattanooga at the time, denied knowing anything about the girl, his mother said. She said she asked Chen to stay with her and his father in Nolensville after that, saying she was scared and didn't want him to be alone in Chattanooga.

(READ MORE: Police searching for missing Chattanooga woman Jasmine Pace)

Chen was a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, his mother said, and planned to graduate with a computer-related degree in the spring. His mother could not name any friends or connections Chen has in Hamilton County but said he worked a few part-time jobs while in school.

The judge noted that some of Chen's mother's testimony may have been misunderstood because of the language barrier. Attorneys present for the hearing could not provide a spelling of Chen's mother's name.

Chen's next appearance in court will be a preliminary hearing, scheduled for Feb. 16 in front of Ables.

Finding Jasmine

Pace's mother, Catrina Pace, tracked Jasmine's vehicle to a Signal View condominium complex at 900 Mountain Creek Road, according to longtime family friend Bailey Putman.

Catrina Pace met with Chattanooga police officers Nov. 27 at 110 Tremont St., after Jasmine shared her location via text message at 2:15 a.m. Nov. 23.

After police interviewed several residents of the apartment building, it was discovered Chen, Pace's alleged boyfriend, was a resident at the building. Police were able to gain access to his apartment, finding Pace's credit cards and driver's license, but no sign of either Chen or Pace, according to a sworn affidavit from the Chattanooga Police Department.

(READ MORE: Friends, family mourn Jasmine Pace at Chattanooga vigil)

Surveillance footage obtained by homicide investigators from a Walgreens on Tremont Street showed Chen purchasing peroxide, alcohol, bandages and paper towels, according to the affidavit.

Neighbors at the Tremont Street apartment building told officers "they heard a loud continuous female scream coming from the direction of (Chen's) apartment" at 2:15 a.m. Nov. 23, according to the affidavit.

Pace's body was found near the Suck Creek Road area, around 10 miles from Chen's apartment.

Police believe that she was "murdered during an altercation" at Chen's apartment and then transferred to another location, according to the affidavit.

Contact Ellen Gerst at egerst@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6319. Follow her on Twitter @ellengerst.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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