The husband of a woman whose remains were found floating in three suitcases was arrested in Florida, Delray Beach police said on Thursday at a news conference.
William Lowe Jr., 78, was charged with first-degree murder, said Delray Beach Police Chief Russ Mager. He was also charged with improper dismemberment of a human body, police said.
The victim was identified as 80-year-old Aydil Barbosa Fontes, police said. Barbosa Fontes was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, the medical examiner determined.
Detectives also said they recovered a 9mm handgun that was found in the desk drawer of the suspect’s home, a police affidavit said.
Detectives allege after Lowe shot and killed Barbosa Fontes, he used a chainsaw to dismember her body, stuff the parts into different bags, and throw them into the intra-coastal waterway. The couple had been married for about 15 years, and police said they had never been called to their apartment before the death.
On July 21, police said they received a 911 call from a person who said they found suitcases in the intra-coastal waterway with “a human foot protruding through the zipper,” an affidavit said.
Two other suitcases were located on the same day. Each contained various body parts and rocks, according to the affidavit. One suitcase contained a Cheesecake Factory bag and several loose large-sized barnacles, according to the affidavit.
Investigators launched a marine expedition on July 22, and were able to locate two more bags with human remains. In all, five bags were found in the intra-coastal waterway within the city limits in Delray Beach, said Det. Mike Liberta, who directed the investigation. Three were suitcases, one was a tote-type purse and another was a small purse, said Liberta.
A female human head was found within the tote-type bag, the affidavit said.
Witnesses said they saw a man in his 50s or 60s driving an older model gold sedan down by the docks where the suitcases and bags were found.
Video surveillance showed Lowe climbing down a dock nearby holding a Cheesecake Factory bag that appeared to be weighted on July 20, the affidavit said. He then reappeared on the video shortly after, no longer holding the bag.
Police traced the vehicle and images back to Lowe and his residence. When they questioned where his wife was, he said, “In Brazil.” When asked how long Barbosa has been in Brazil, he stated, “about three weeks,” the affidavit said. He also told detectives he didn’t know what airline his wife had flown or when he last spoke to her.
Search warrants were executed, said Liberta, and during one of the searches, detectives found information that led them to a storage unit.
“They located a chainsaw that they believed was used in this crime,” said Liberta. It was a Ryobi chainsaw that appeared to have blood on the blade, chain and housing, the affidavit said. Police also found blood splatter inside the apartment where Lowe lived.
Inside the suitcases, investigators found an airline tag that bore the partial names of the victim, Liberta said.
Lowe appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty. He is currently being held in Palm Beach County Jail and was not granted bond, according to online records. Police are still searching for a motive.