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Originally published Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 6:10 PM

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2nd search for evidence leads to arrest in West Seattle slaying

A 20-year-old Seattle man was charged with first-degree murder with sexual motivation Wednesday, accused of beating and strangling his ex-girlfriend’s mother and hiding her body in a closet in December.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The first time crime-scene investigators collected evidence from the West Seattle apartment where Nga Nguyen was beaten and strangled, they found her second-floor bedroom window locked from the inside.

More than three weeks after the 46-year-old’s body was found in her bedroom closet Dec. 14, her daughter returned to the apartment and pointed out to Seattle police detectives that a screen that had covered the window was missing.

That discovery prompted crime-scene investigators to take a second look for evidence Jan. 9. They found several fingerprints on the window that were matched to Jose Gonzalez-Leos, the ex-boyfriend of Nguyen’s daughter, according to King County prosecutors.

Gonzalez-Leos, 20, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder with sexual motivation and is being held in jail in lieu of $2 million bail. He is to be arraigned March 19.

The fingerprints from the window were the first piece of evidence to implicate Gonzalez-Leos in Nguyen’s death, but there would be more in the days that followed, according to charging documents. His palm print was found on a partially wrapped Christmas gift taken from the apartment and left in a neighbor’s yard and his DNA was matched to saliva found on Nguyen’s body, charging papers say.

Gonzalez-Leos was arrested Saturday at his home about 3½ miles south of the apartment where Nguyen was killed. Though he “has no apparent felony criminal history,” he has a “significant history of drug abuse” and was using marijuana and methamphetamine on a near-daily basis at the time of the crime, charging papers say.

According to prosecutors, Gonzalez-Leos and Nguyen’s daughter broke up in September, but since then, he had showed up uninvited at the apartment the mother and daughter shared on High Point Drive Southwest, and had also had previous “disturbances” with Nguyen.

The nature of the disturbances weren’t detailed in the charging documents.

On Dec. 14, Gonzalez-Leos went to the apartment and became enraged when he saw that the daughter’s car wasn’t parked outside, charging papers say. He climbed onto a neighbor’s shed and onto the roof of the apartment building, entering the women’s unit through Nguyen’s second-floor bedroom window, according to the papers.

Gonzalez-Leos confronted Nguyen, who “suffered a severe beating and strangulation,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole wrote in charging papers.

Gonzalez-Leos is not accused of raping Nguyen, but prosecutors say he licked her body during the attack, according to the papers.

Though Gonzalez-Leos initially denied involvement in Nguyen’s slaying, police say he told detectives “he struck her, strangled her and hid her in the bedroom closet” after confronted with the physical evidence against him, the papers say.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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