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Person of Interest in Custody in Death of College Grad Found in Duffel Bag

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC10's Monique Braxton explains the murder investigation that led cops to a person of interest.

    Police will reveal new details on the investigation during a 3:45 p.m. press conference. Watch it live here.


    Philadelphia Police expect to file charges Wednesday against a person of interest taken into custody  in connection with the murder of a young Philadelphia woman whose body was found in a duffel bag.

    Authorities have yet to reveal the identity of the person of interest, who they began questioning Tuesday afternoon about the murder of 23-year-old Laura Araujo -- a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

    But multiple sources tell NBC10 that 23-year-old Jerry Jackson confessed to killing Araujo. Charges have not yet been filed against Jackson. 

    Her body was found in front of an abandoned house on the 2200 block of North 3rd Street in the Kensington section of the city, her hands and feet bound. She had been beaten and strangled, and her body had been put in a trash bag, wrapped in a blanket and then stuffed into the duffel bag.

    Investigators believe the person who killed Araujo stole her car, a 2011 Toyota Rav4, and took it to South Bambrey Street in South Philadelphia. There, it was set on fire.

    Police tell NBC10 the mother of the person of interest has been instrumental in the investigation. She described her 23-year-old son as troubled and said she knew something was wrong as soon as she saw burns on his arms Tuesday. She told detectives she kicked him out of the family's home after he allegedly robbed someone and was unsure where he was staying at the time of Araujo's death.

    The man showed up Tuesday at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where police picked him up and took him into custody. The man can be seen walking into police headquarters with his arms wrapped in bandages.

    According to police, the man lived in the same apartment complex as Araujo. Police were outside of the man's West Philadelphia home overnight, waiting for the final okay to serve a search warrant.

    Authorities say Arajo's computer and phone were stolen, but the rest of her belongings -- mixed in with trash -- sat nearby the bag containing her remains Monday morning. Her body was discovered by a man who was going through the garbage. He immediately called police.

    Araujo was about to start a new job at a local hotel when she was killed, Homicide Division Capt. James Clark said.

    Clark says Araujo was searching for a new place to live and had her "life's belongings" in her car at the time of her death.

    "All her belongings were found where her body was found in North Philadelphia. So obviously, after the murder, after her body was dumped there, somebody took her vehicle to South Philadelphia and set it on fire to try to cover their tracks," said Clark.

    Clark says autopsy results showed Araujo was killed four to eight hours before her body was found.

    "Where she was killed, we still don't know," Clark said.

    Araujo was from the Bronx in New York, but had been living in Philadelphia for the last four to five years while earning her degree in Fashion Design. She graduated in December. From her LinkedIn page, Araujo appears to have been a standout student who was on the Dean's List and received "Best of Quarter" recognition for six different classes.

    The school would not answer questions about Araujo "out of respect for the family," said communications director Devra Pransky, but issued this statement:

    “We are sorry to learn that Laura Araujo, a 2013 graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia’s Fashion Marketing program, recently passed away. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Ms. Araujo’s family and friends at this difficult time."

    Araujo's work outside school included tutoring children and adults who were learning English as a second language, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also listed work with community outreach programs in Oklahoma and Georgia. Clark described her as a smart girl with a bright future.

    Her last residence was in the area of 8th and Diamond where she lived with two women friends until a few weeks ago, police said.

    Authorities are waiting to talk to the friends, who are both on vacation. Araujo's mother said as far as she knew, her daughter didn't have a boyfriend. Her father, Lorenzo Araujo, said the last time he saw her was two weeks ago during a family trip to the Dominican Republic. Lorenzo claims she never showed any signs of distress.

    "She was a religious individual. Very methodical. Very selective with her friends and the people she related to most of the time," Lorenzo said.

    A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

    Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Philadelphia's Homicide Unit.