Already dead body found in I-90 car wreck

The crime stories from Minnesota get more bizarre by the day. The latest one involves a single-car accident on Interstate 90 near Rochester and is like something out of a David Lynch movie.

Police called to the scene of the accident on Saturday morning found a gray Chevy Sonic with Iowa plates crashed in the highway median. The driver, identified as Margot Lewis, age 32, also of Iowa, was sitting nearby in a lawn chair provided by a passerby.

Bystanders directed the responding Deputy to a dead body in the back of the car. The person was not killed by the car crash.

According to the police report filed by the Olmsted County Sheriff’s office,

[The] body was wrapped in a bed sheet, a blanket, a futon-style mattress.

The car itself turned out to be registered to the decedent. The coroner at the Mayo Clinic identified the dead body as one Liara Tsai, age 35. The Star Tribune reports that Tsai was a local Minneapolis DJ and transgender activist. The Star Tribune’s report includes a photo of Tsai.

Lewis, still being held at the Olmsted County jail, finally has a booking photo posted,

The police report of the incident describes Lewis as an adult female.

Lewis faces a single felony count of “interference with a dead body.” Based on a tip from Olmsted County, Minneapolis police searched Tsai’s Minneapolis home. The Star Tribune reports,

A Minneapolis police officer’s report filed Saturday night classified Tsai’s death as a case of murder, noting that the weapon involved was a knife or other “cutting instrument.” The complaint noted that a deputy at the [I-90] scene saw a large wound to her neck around the carotid artery.

The Deputy’s report contains a curious detail regarding the defendant,

Lewis did not respond audibly to detention staff or investigators.

The court record for the case includes requests for an interpreter. For sign language, apparently, as Lewis refuses to speak out loud. Lewis remains in custody in Olmsted County on $1 million bail.

KAAL-TV adds some other odd details (the “they/their” pronouns refer only to Lewis in this instance.)

The Olmsted County Attorney’s Office requested the $1M bail, citing the ongoing homicide investigation into Liara Tsai’s death via a neck wound, Lewis’ homelessness, and the fact that Lewis had flown into Minnesota only in the past week.

Previously, they resided in Iowa and Massachusetts, the prosecution stated.

The prosecution also claimed Lewis had been uncooperative in the booking process, and had refused to eat or dress during their time in the Olmsted County ADC.

More odd details from KSTP.

[Update: KTTC and other outlets reported Wednesday night (June 26) that 2nd-degree murder charges against Lewis have been filed back in Minneapolis. The situation appears to fall under what we used to call, a “crime of passion.”]

The next Olmsted County court date for Lewis is scheduled for July 5, but Hennepin County has requested extradition in the murder case.