A Canadian man, wanted in the June 2018 rape and homicide of a 31-year-old mother in Windsor, Ontario, as her young son lay listening in the next room, has been arrested at his parents’ home in Kent and is facing extradition in U.S. District Court.
Jitesh Bhogal was arrested on a federal warrant issued earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Seattle after he was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in Canada on Aug. 5. Bhogal faces a detention and status hearing Friday before Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue.
Prosecutors indicate they intend to file formal extradition papers soon, according to the court docket.
If convicted in Canada, he faces life in prison.
Bhogal is accused in the June 10 killing of Autumn Taggart, who was found in her third-floor-apartment bedroom late that day by her former boyfriend after their 9-year-old son said his mother had been in bed all day and he could not wake her. Taggart is identified in U.S. court documents only by her initials.
Court documents say Homeland Security agents in Detroit, acting at the behest of Canadian authorities, followed Bhogal to a bar after he became a suspect in the crime and obtained Bhogal’s DNA from a beer glass, allegedly matching it to DNA found on Taggart’s body by forensic pathologists.
Bhogal is identified in court documents as a 28-year-old Canadian citizen who works in Detroit for a “major automobile manufacturer” as a “senior design release engineer.” Documents indicate he traveled almost daily between the United States and Canada.
According to court documents containing information provided by Canadian authorities, Bhogal had been at an apartment next door to the victim with an acquaintance, where they made arrangements to buy a small amount of cocaine. The friend said Bhogal also wanted to hire a prostitute.
Taggart’s neighbor told police that he and Bhogal “consumed” some cocaine while sitting in Bhogal’s car — a late-model SUV — and then the friend took the drugs inside, later telling police he had intended to rob Bhogal all along. He told investigators he left Bhogal in the parking lot.
Later that morning, the neighbor awoke and saw that Bhogal’s vehicle was still in the parking lot, near the victim’s apartment. Investigators later found footprints on the roof of another truck that had been parked beneath the apartments and believe the killer accessed the victim’s home by climbing up two exterior balconies and entered through an unlocked sliding-glass door, according to court documents.
Police were first able to identify Bhogal through his cellphone number, which was used to make the drug deal. Investigators began tracking his movements, and said his travel and appearance changed after the date of the slaying.
Officials say Bhogal had a NEXUS identification card, a special form of ID for “low-risk travelers” to avoid long waits at border-entry points, according to documents.
Homeland Security agents followed Bhogal to a Michigan bar, where they took a beer glass he drank from and used it to obtain DNA that Canadian officials say matched evidence from the crime scene, according to documents.
Investigators say he left the vehicle he was allegedly driving the night Taggart was killed at his parents’ home in Kent, and he obtained a Washington driver’s license.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, the Windsor Police Service (WPS) was dispatched to the victim’s apartment the evening of June 10 after her 9-year-old son texted his father using his mother’s phone saying “mommy won’t wake up.”
When authorities arrived and entered her room, according to documents, they found Taggart’s body. An autopsy showed she had been badly beaten, raped and strangled.
According to statements made by the 9-year-old child to Windsor police, a man came into his room and told him to go to his bed and sleep. Afterward, the boy said he “heard a girl screaming … but did not get up to investigate because he was scared,” according to court papers. The boy spent the day watching TV and eating cookies before texting his father at almost 8 p.m. because his mother was still in bed, the document say.
A phone call to Bhogal’s defense lawyer, Gregory Murphy, was not returned.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.