An hour before 23-year-old Laura Araujo's body was found stuffed into a duffel bag off a Kensington street on Monday morning, the man police say killed her checked himself into the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania with second-degree burns.
Homicide Unit Lt. Walter Bell said today that an arson investigator who checked Araujo's 2011 Toyota Rav4, found ablaze in South Philadelphia at 2:20 a.m. on Monday, went to interview Jeremiah Jakson, 23, suspecting a connection to the car.
After Araujo's body was found at 5:30 a.m., and Jackson was transferred to Crozier-Chester Medical Center, the investigator realized the victim had the same name as the registration of the burning vehicle and contacted detectives, Bell said.
Police said the two were neighbors in Mantua and that Jakson killed Araujo while trying to rob her.
According to Bell, Jakson believed Araujo had things worth stealing because of her car.
Araujo was seeking a new apartment at the time of her death in part because of a prior encounter with Jakson, Bell said.
Bell declined to answer questions as to whether Jackson confessed, simply stating, "We have the right man."
Police believe Araujo was murdered inside the building where they both lived. No other details were immediately available.
Friends and acquaintances of Araujo's were still coping with her sudden death on Wednesday.
"When I saw her picture, I started screaming, real loud -- like, her, of all people?" said Araujo's friend and Arts Institute classmate Michael Moore, 21, of learning about her death. "I just lost words. I couldn't believe it was her -- such a nice, sweet, innocent, smart girl."
Moore described Araujo, a New York native, as a focused student, devout Christian and natural leader who dreamed of starting her own fashion line one day.
"She was someone I really admired," he said.
Araujo, a New York native, had graduated from Arts Institute in December with a degree in fashion design.
"She was a great girl. We're all deeply saddened," said an Arts Institute employee, who asked not to be identified.
"It's tragic because she just graduated," said another former classmate of Araujo's, who asked not to be named. "She was just about to start her life, and she gets killed for no reason? That don't make any sense."