Episode 043: Jassy Correia

June 6, 2022

After escaping an abusive relationship, a young woman goes out with friends to celebrate her birthday. But when she doesn’t come home, her family is left to wonder… What happened to Jassy?

Episode Media
Jassy Correia
Jassy Correia with daughter Gaby (Boston Globe)
Jassy on the night she was killed (Boston Herald)
Louis D. Coleman III (Delaware District Attorney’s Office)
Police searching Coleman’s car after his arrest (ABC News)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you the story of a young woman whose life was cut short just as she was on the brink of a fresh start. This episode includes descriptions of domestic violence and other sensitive topics. Listener discretion is advised.

Jassy Correia was born in the capital city of Praia on the island nation of Cape Verde. At the age of 3, Jassy and her father immigrated to the United States, settling in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a diverse neighborhood in Boston. There, Jassy grew up in a large, loving family filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins who adored her. Jassy was a funny, bright girl who loved to dance and had a passion for photography.

In December of 2016, 20-year-old Jassy gave birth to a beautiful baby girl she named Gabriela. Gaby was the light of Jassy’s life, but her joy was marred by the constant battles with Gaby’s father, 21-year-old Miguel Castro. Throughout their relationship, Miguel was jealous and violent. When Gaby was born, there had been a legal battle over custody of the little girl.

Just over a year after Gaby was born, things really took a turn. On January 28, 2018, Jassy sent a desperate text to Miguel’s mother. “Miguel won’t let me leave. Don’t call him. He’ll kill me.” Along with the text was a picture of Jassy’s beaten, bloody face. Alarmed, and knowing what her son was capable of, Rosany Castro called 911.

When police arrived at Miguel’s apartment, he calmly told them that Jassy had left – she had taken an Uber back to her home in Dorchester. But the blood cast about the apartment told a different story. Officers searched the apartment and found Jassy hiding under a staircase, broken and bleeding. Miguel had beaten her so badly that she suffered a fractured eye socket as well as a broken nose.

Miguel Castro was charged with multiple counts of assault and one count of intentional disfigurement. Over the next year, Miguel was in and out of court. But Jassy was too terrified to testify against him, and Miguel threatened her repeatedly, warning her not to respond to the court summons. Thankfully, the case was able to move forward even without Jassy’s testimony; based on the evidence collected by police officers at the scene, Miguel Castro was found guilty and sentenced to four and half years in state prison.

It was now January of 2019, and Jassy was free to move on with her life. Two-year-old Gaby was thriving, and Jassy had a steady job, a supportive family, and a solid group of friends. So as her 23rd birthday approached, Jassy wanted to celebrate.

On the evening of Saturday, February 23rd, Jassy got dressed up in her new orange jumpsuit, gold hoop earrings, and denim jacket, ready for a night on the town. She met up with friends at the Venu nightclub in Boston’s Theater District, where they spent the night dancing and drinking champagne. Pictures from that evening show Jassy laughing and smiling, enjoying her night of freedom.

Jassy and her friends left the club at 2am and parted ways. But Jassy never made it home.

On Sunday, Jassy’s cousin Katia tried to call, but Jassy’s cell phone went straight to voicemail. Katia assumed that her cousin’s phone was dead after a night of partying.

On Monday, Jassy’s brother Joel tried to reach out but got the same result – straight to voicemail.

On Tuesday, Jassy’s father Joaquin called to wish her a happy birthday. But there was no response. Concerned, he contacted Jassy’s friends, but they said they hadn’t seen her since leaving the club early Sunday morning. Realizing that no one had heard from Jassy in days, Joaquin went to the police.

By the next day, the Boston Police Department had pulled surveillance footage from the area surrounding the nightclub and had posted a missing person alert for Jassy Correia. They asked the public to call in if they had seen Jassy, and they asked for help identifying a person of interest – a man in a dark jacket seen walking with Jassy just after 2am.

As Jassy’s story hit the local news, investigators were scouring the surveillance footage, hoping to retrace Jassy’s steps the night she disappeared.

Just like her friends had said, video shows Jassy and her friends leaving the club in the early hours of Sunday, February 24th. At some point, Jassy gets separated from the group and walks towards Tremont Street. She talks to a few people on the sidewalk, then tries to get into an Uber. However, the ride is clearly not intended for her, and the driver pushes her out of the vehicle. Jassy appears to be upset, and as she bangs on the car window, a man approaches her from behind. He takes Jassy by the hand and seems to be trying to coax her away from the Uber. Jassy, who is clearly intoxicated, follows the man out of the camera’s view.

According to police, Jassy and the man are seen again a few minutes later, but this time the man is carrying Jassy over his shoulder in what they described as a “fireman’s carry”. Then, the video shows Jassy getting into the passenger seat of a red sedan. The car sits in its parking space for approximately 15 minutes before driving off, the unidentified man at the wheel.

Investigators immediately began searching for the mystery man who was last seen with Jassy. In a stroke of luck, the nightclub had the exact information they needed. At some point on Saturday night, the man had entered the club and scanned his driver’s license at the door. Investigators now had his identity: he was 32-year-old Louis D. Coleman III.

They also had his address: 95 Chestnut Street in Providence, Rhode Island, about 50 miles south of Boston.

Surveillance video from Coleman’s apartment building shows the red sedan entering the parking lot around 4:15am on Sunday. Coleman parks the car, enters the building, then returns a few minutes later with a blanket in hand.

At 4:27am, Coleman is seen entering the building again. This time, he is carrying the body of a woman. Once inside, Coleman drops the woman on the floor and drags her limp body to the elevator. Her bright orange jumpsuit is clearly visible.

Over the next few days, Coleman is seen going back and forth from his apartment, but Jassy is not. On one occasion, Coleman returns to the apartment with multiple shopping bags. Surveillance video from a Walmart in Providence captured him purchasing duct tape, candles, surgical gloves, safety goggles, three sets of coveralls, a mask, a respirator, and bleach.

On Wednesday night, after police posted the missing person alert for Jassy, Coleman is seen entering his apartment with a large, dark-colored suitcase with the tags still attached.

On Thursday, February 28th, Coleman leaves his apartment at 1:15am, rolling the suitcase behind him. Video shows him struggling to lift the suitcase into the trunk of his red sedan. Over the next few hours, he makes several trips in and out of the building, carrying cardboard boxes, trash bags, a bottle of bleach, a duffle bag, a laptop case, and a computer tower.

By now, authorities were hot on the trail. Rhode Island police obtained a search warrant for Coleman’s apartment. Inside, they found remnants of his Walmart purchases and noticed that the couch in the living room was missing a cushion cover. In the dumpster outside the apartment building, investigators discovered even more evidence of Coleman’s activities, including plastic sheets, men’s jeans covered with bleach stains, and empty packages of purifying charcoal.

Boston police released Coleman’s name and picture to the media, naming him as a suspect in Jassy’s disappearance. Investigators also made an emergency request for data from OnStar – a vehicle security system that Coleman had on his red sedan. Using that data, police were able to track Coleman’s car to Delaware and put out an alert to other law enforcement agencies.

Just after 2:00 that afternoon, an officer from the Delaware State Police spotted Coleman’s car on Interstate 95. He alerted his supervisor, then pulled the vehicle over and ordered Coleman to get out of the car. When asked if there was anyone else inside, Coleman responded, “She’s in the trunk.”

Soon, Coleman was in custody, and the car was surrounded by law enforcement. When they opened the trunk, they found a dark-colored suitcase. Inside, there was a plastic bag, and inside the bag was the cover of a couch cushion that contained the body of Jassy Correia. She had been beaten and strangled.

Louis Coleman was charged in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Massachusetts on multiple counts relating to Jassy’s death. He was also charged in federal court with interstate kidnapping. He waived his right to an extradition hearing and was sent to jail to await trial.

At a press conference, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins spoke briefly about the investigation, focusing her statement on Jassy. “Jassy was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was right where every woman has every right to be — celebrating her birthday on a night out with friends. Let’s not fall into a discussion about whether we should walk home alone or how many people we should call when we’re leaving the club. If anything, let’s remind the men in our lives that violence against women isn’t a women’s issue — it’s a problem that men take responsibility for in their lives, in their sons’ lives, and in their social lives with friends and colleagues.”

On March 9, Jassy’s family held a memorial service at St. Peter’s Church in Dorchester. It was attended by family, friends, and hundreds of members of the public who were touched by Jassy’s story. Jassy’s father Joaquin spoke in his native Creole and Portuguese, saying, “May God give eternal rest in paradise to my dear Jassy. Rest in peace, my good child.”

As the family said goodbye to Jassy, the wheels of justice continue to turn. In April of 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Louis Coleman on one count of kidnapping resulting in death. He pleaded not guilty, and in pre-trial proceedings, his attorneys argued that police illegally obtained his cell phone records and OnStar data. They questioned whether Jassy had been held against her will, saying that investigators did not have a solid foundation for the kidnapping charge. But because Jassy was clearly unconscious at the time Coleman took her into his apartment, the charges were allowed to stand.

Finally, in May of 2022, the trial of Louis Coleman began. The defense claimed that Coleman was just helping Jassy in the wee hours of February 24th, that she was “a female in distress”. But the prosecution laid out a flood of evidence that contradicted his story.

The medical examiner testified to Jassy’s injuries, and federal agents presented the evidence they had uncovered from Coleman’s computer in the days following her death, which included searches for “can a person fit in a suitcase”. Also presented were the cracks on the passenger side of Coleman’s windshield, indicating that there had been a struggle in the vehicle and that Jassy had fought back. The DNA evidence was also damning – Coleman’s DNA was found under Jassy’s fingernails, and vaginal swabs taken from her body detected semen belonging to Coleman.

Finally, on June 1, 2022, Louis Coleman was found guilty of kidnapping and killing Jassy Correia.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy spoke after the verdict, saying, “Justice was done today in this courthouse. The victim in this case, Jassy Correia, was a vibrant young woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend. And the defendant, Louis Coleman, was a predator. He tricked Ms. Correia into believing he would give her a ride and instead he held her against her will, sexually assaulted her, murdered her and engaged in a massive cover up. Although this conviction cannot bring Ms. Correia back, today’s guilty verdict brings some measure of justice for her and her loving family who feel this devastating void every single day. This case is the result of an incredibly collaborative law enforcement effort between local, state and federal agencies… Thanks to their investigative work, the tireless efforts of the trial team and the bravery of Ms. Correia’s family and friends, Louis Coleman has been held accountable and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.”

Jassy Correia was on the verge of a new life, finally free from the terror of a violent relationship and ready to move forward. She should have been able to enjoy a night out with friends to celebrate her birthday, but instead, she was targeted by a man who preyed on her in her vulnerable state. Jassy deserved better, and so do the thousands of women every year who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. If you need support after a sexual assault, please reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Calls are free and confidential.