The Lesbian Strangler: Jessica Ewing Murdered Friend Who Rejected Her

“Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.” (Chicago Women’s Liberation Union pamphlet, Lesbianism and Feminism, 1971; Stevi Jackson, Sue Scott, Feminism and Sexuality: A Reader, Columbia University Press, 1996, p. 282)

Virginia Tech senior Samanata Shrestha was 21 when she was strangled to death in February 2014 by a fellow student, Jessica Ewing, 22. Police and prosecutors had not publicly discussed the motive, and it was not until a sentencing hearing this week that Ewing testified that she is a lesbian, and had been in love with Shrestha, who rejected her. Ada Calhoun atCosmopolitan reports:

Shrestha had invited Ewing over for dinner. At the apartment, Ewing strangled Shrestha, then put the body in a sleeping bag and put it in the victim’s car. Her plans to burn the body were thwarted when a friend wouldn’t help her. She described this in a damning journal entry as: “Some friend. He fucking won’t even help me move a goddamn body . . . friendship test failed.” . . .
During her statement, pulled out of her bit by bit by her attorney, Ewing described a fragile mental state that made her “lose it” the night of the attack. She said she had been sexually abused by a friend’s father as a young girl, had been drugged and raped at a campus party by an unknown assailant in spring 2013, and had felt deep conflict around her sexual feelings for Shrestha. She said she had kept these secrets from everyone except for therapists at a local counseling center, whom she told about the rape. In fall 2013, she was depressed and failing classes, and that, too, she kept from her family. “The only thing I know how to do is hide things,” she said when explaining the steps she’d taken to conceal the murder. “The only thing I’ve ever done is hide what I don’t want people to know.” . . .
One of those in the courtroom was Shrestha’s boyfriend, Scott Masselli . . . They had talked, Masselli said, about getting married next year, and he’s haunted by a sense that he should have protected her . . .
Ewing said yesterday that she thought of Shrestha as a “golden child” or a “perfect person,” a derogatory descriptor she used for someone to whom things came easy. But Shrestha had overcome obstacles. She came to the United States at the age of 3 from Nepal and learned English at school while speaking Nepali at home. Shrestha eventually also became fluent in Spanish, Hindi, and American Sign Language. . . .
The week of Feb. 3, 2014, on one of their daily calls (Masselli graduated from Virginia Tech in 2012 and is now finishing up law school at William & Mary), Shrestha told Masselli that she was going to make dinner for Ewing on Friday. The girls had been around each other three or four times, Masselli said (Ewing said in court it was more like six).
The girls had also kissed once or twice. “Sam’s boyfriend was aware that Sam had some interest in finding out what it would be like to kiss another girl,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt told “There had been a kiss exchanged between the two girls, but he doesn’t like the characterization even of ‘experimenting.’ I don’t know how you describe that. It was curiosity or interest. He didn’t feel like she was bisexual or not interested in him or anything.”
“You would be greatly mistaken if you wrote that Sam had a romantic relationship with the defendant,” Masselli wrote in an email. . . .

Problem: One girl is “bi-curious” or “hetero-flexible,” and the other girl — well, it’s serious for her, you see? One girl is popular and successful and has a boyfriend in law school, and the other girl — well, she’s damaged, you see? We are expected to ignore the fact that damaged people are often dangerous people. We aren’t supposed to mention this, because we aren’t supposed to “stigmatize” the mentally ill. Certainly we cannot be permitted to “blame the victims,” and Jessica Ewing depicted herself as a victim twice-over, first of childhood molestation and then of campus rape, although (conveniently) this is an unverified narrative, a poor-pitiful-me story offered as an excuse for murder.

Excuse me for being unsympathetic to murderers. For every killer who tells this kind of tale of youthful woe, there are hundreds of other people who had worse childhoods and yet managed to grow up to be law-abiding responsible adults. Now we return to The Tale of The Lesbian Strangler:

At 3 in the morning the night before the dinner, Ewing texted a friend from her Bible study group: “Tomorrow night is worrisome. And I can’t stop this idea. It slowly creeped its way to consume my black heart. I want to … let someone else decide, but I’ve already etched it in history.”
Shrestha’s mother, Rajshree Shrestha, said in court yesterday that the family prides itself on being good hosts and believes it is the ultimate treachery to eat food someone has prepared for you knowing all the time that you plan to kill them. Ewing, however, said there was no plan, and that she and Shrestha had been secretly dating. Ewing said the “worrisome” text was about how she was expecting they would have sex that night, something she was excited for but also anxious about. For one thing, she said, she felt she would be cheating on her boyfriend. Also, she said growing up Baptist in the small town of Easton, Maryland, she was led to believe that homosexuality was wrong. . . .

(News flash: Lots of people grow up Baptist in small towns and don’tbecome lesbian murderers.)

“Jessica’s never been an aggressive person,” her mother, Donna Ewing, a band teacher, told the judge. . . . Answering a question about all the surprises her daughter introduced in court — shame around lesbian feelings, rape, childhood sexual abuse — Donna Ewing said through tears to the judge, “It just breaks my heart knowing what she’s had to endure.”

(Again: There are people who had worse childhoods, but did not grow up to become lesbian murderers.)

She said in court that she was ultimately kicked out of the [university’s] Corps [of Cadets] following an accusation around the same time made by someone “who had it in for me” that she had hazed new recruits by pouring water on their faces while they exercised. . . .
Once ostracized from her Corps friends, Ewing said, she spiraled into a depression. It was then that she met Shrestha. Both biology students, they’d met outside a classroom where they had back-to-back classes. They wound up talking about TheLion King, which Ewing said was her favorite movie and which Shrestha said she had never seen. They made a plan to watch the film together, and Ewing described that as their first date. . . .

(So “somebody had it in for” her, and she was ostracized and depressed and then she meets the girl she is destined to murder. Notice it’s always poor pitiful Jessica we are expected to feel sorry for? Not, y’know, the girl she strangled.)

About two months later, Ewing drove to Shrestha’s apartment with a large bottle of Yellowtail wine and a can of whipped cream. She spent a long time getting ready and was an hour late. When she arrived, she said, she was disappointed that Shrestha was wearing yoga pants and complained about it. Ewing said Shrestha then changed into a dress, the same dress found later with her naked body. They then bickered, Ewing recalled, over the proper way to chop bell peppers for the meal . . .
Shrestha texted with her boyfriend throughout the evening, and then after a lull, “She hid my phone, sorry. Ha ha. Love you.” . . .

(Notice Jessica was an aggressive pursuer? Notice she was “disappointed” and “complained”? Notice Samanata kept texting with her boyfriend — reassuring him — and this caused Jessica to hide her phone? This is what an obsessive, controlling personality is like.)

As they drank, Ewing said, they became playful, making a fort out of blankets and having a whipped cream fight. Ewing said they then both took all their clothes off and had sex in the fort. A fight followed, Ewing said, during which Ewing called Shrestha a “whore” and a “spoiled bitch” who had a paid-for apartment and a Mercedes. Ewing said Shrestha then told her she was only an “experiment,” and Ewing became “beyond mad. I was hurt and upset. I would say enraged . . . I loved Sam. I couldn’t believe she would be . . . that I could be just some experiment to her. It hit me where I was most vulnerable. It’s no excuse. But I couldn’t control it at the time.”
In a struggle, Ewing said, they knocked over a hamster cage. Ewing then overpowered Shrestha and strangled her to death.

You can read the rest. Jessica’s tale of sudden rage and loss of control, we understand, is intended to show that Samanata’s murder was notpremeditated. But exactly why, after having sex with her, would Jessica call Samanata a “whore” and a “spoiled bitch”? If she harbored such resentments toward her, what was all that “playful” stuff about? Never mind. If this was a premeditated murder, Jessica’s plan for getting away for it was badly flawed. One interesting detail: Jessica asked “her best friend, Keifer Kyle Brown, to rid her apartment of ‘dark’ books — books about tarot cards and the occult and, inexplicably, a Shakespeare compilation — that she feared might make her look suspicious.”

Books about “tarot cards and the occult”? The lesbian murderer was dabbling in that stuff, huh? It makes sense.

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