An Arizona man found at a Lenexa, Kan., storage unit with two small children last week told police his wife was dead and her body was stored inside his cooler, according to court records.
The Visalia, Calif., woman’s body was dismembered after she died during or after giving birth, according to her sister, who says police told her the details Friday.
Justin Todd Rey, 35, of Flagstaff, Ariz., was arrested and charged with child endangerment after Lenexa police responded to a report of people sleeping inside the storage unit in the 9200 block of Marshall Drive on Oct. 24. While there, officers found human remains. Rey is being held on a $1 million bond.
Law enforcement officials have not publicly identified the remains, but Rey told police they belonged to his wife, 33-year-old Jessica Monteiro Rey, according to court records. Her sister in California, Rhonda Monteiro, said police told the family that Jessica Rey’s remains were identified by her fingerprints and that her body had been dismembered.
The couple had a 2-year-old and a newborn baby. Monteiro said police told her that Rey gave birth to the newborn in a Kansas City hotel room. She did not know how the couple had arrived in the Kansas City area.
Monteiro thinks that her sister died during or after childbirth and that Justin Rey tried to cover up the death for fear that the two children would be taken away by authorities.
“My sister deserves justice,” Monteiro said. “He could have taken her to a hospital, but he didn’t. Instead, he chopped her up and put her in a cooler.”
Police say that when they questioned Justin Rey he told conflicting stories about his wife’s death, first saying she died while giving birth to their newborn and later saying she committed suicide after giving birth.
While talking with police at the storage unit, Rey “spontaneously informed the officers his wife was inside the cooler and looked to the direction of a red and white Igloo-style cooler with wheels,” according to Jackson County Circuit Court records.
The officers at the scene were not able to immediately identify the age, gender or race of the remains, said Officer Danny Chavez, a Lenexa police spokesman. The remains were sent to the office of the Jackson County Medical Examiner.
Lenexa police opened a “missing persons/suspicious death” investigation and contacted Kansas City police for help tracing the family’s movements in the days before the arrest.
It’s unclear when the family arrived in the Kansas City area, but Justin Rey and Jessica Rey — then pregnant — along with their 2-year-old child, checked into a hotel along Interstate 70 near the Truman Sports Complex on Sept. 25, according to an application for a search warrant filed by Kansas City police.
Jessica Rey was last seen alive at that hotel on Oct. 20, according to police.
Three days later, Justin Rey called the front desk, disguising his voice as female, and checked out of their room, hotel management told investigators.
Police reviewing surveillance video from the hotel saw him walking through the hotel pulling a red cooler with a black bag on top of it, while pushing a stroller, with a toddler walking beside him. He left the hotel shortly after noon on Oct. 23. About an hour later, he returned to the hotel, saying he needed to get back into the room because he forgot something.
The next day, Lenexa police found Justin Rey, the two children and the cooler at the storage unit.
Monteiro, Jessica Rey’s sister, said family members had been worried for much of the 10 years she had been married to Justin Rey, whom Monteiro described as being potentially dangerous. In Arizona, he had been convicted of theft and making threats.
The couple had four other children who were removed from their custody by state officials in California and Arizona, according to Monteiro. She thinks her sister could have regained custody of the children if she had left her husband.
“She was a good person. She was influenced by this guy in a bad way. She felt sorry for him, and she was loyal. She was good with the kids,” Monteiro said.
Justin Rey is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center and is scheduled to be in Johnson County District Court on Thursday.