LS Attorney Man charged with murder of missing woman Manijeh “Mani” Starren

Man charged with murder of missing woman Manijeh “Mani” Starren

Prosecutors believe Joseph Steven Jorgenson dismembered his girlfriend, Manijeh “Mani” Starren, and hid her remains in a Woodbury storage facility.

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged a Maplewood man Friday for allegedly killing and dismembering his girlfriend.

Joseph Steven Jorgenson, 40, faces one count of second-degree murder in connection with the disappearance and eventual death of 34-year-old Manijeh “Mani” Starren. Starren was reported missing in early June after her family had not heard from her since April 21.

Earlier in the week, Jorgenson was also charged with arson and trying to disarm a peace officer as police tried to execute warrants related to Starren’s disappearance.

“We also cannot fathom the pain the family is feeling at this point, but we do hope that this investigation’s results will bring them some level of solace,” Saint Paul Police Department PIO Sgt. Mike Ernster said at a press conference Friday.

Investigators studied video surveillance, social media posts and ATM transactions, along with computer and phone activity to track down Jorgenson, according to court documents.

Video from an apartment surveillance camera located near Starren’s apartment showed her running from her home on April 21, 2023. The video showed Jorgenson running after her, grabbing her, and pushing her back into the apartment. Prosecutors say there is no video showing Starren ever leaving her apartment again.

According to a criminal complaint filed June 30, several videos show Jorgenson coming and going from Starren’s apartment between April 21 and April 28. Prosecutors said Jorgenson accessed her apartment 28 times during this period.

Surveillance video on April 28 shows Jorgenson carrying two duffle bags and a suitcase from her apartment. Jorgenson loaded the baggage into a pickup truck, got into the passenger seat, and drove off. Police said the pickup belonged to Jorgenson’s roommate. They lived in an apartment building on Century Avenue in Maplewood.

Investigators believe Jorgenson used Starren’s bank card to purchase a large quantity of cleaning supplies from a nearby Dollar Tree store.

Police also obtained a search warrant for information regarding Jorgenson’s Google account. Data revealed Jorgenson looked up how to clear cookies from an Android phone, what police did with missing person reports and “lime for soil,” the complaint said.

“Lime can be used to speed up the decomposition process of a body and to reduce the document smell of decomposition,” the court stated.

According to the criminal complaint, in May multiple apartment tenants complained of a “foul smell” coming from Jorgenson’s apartment, and at one point the manager and a maintenance employee saw Jorgenson moving large black duffle bags that looked like Jorgenson was “carrying a dead body” ,” the court documents stated.

Police obtained search warrants for Jorgenson’s Maplewood apartment. When officers attempted to serve the warrants on June 26, Jorgenson barricaded himself in his bedroom and started a fire. When SWAT officers sprayed a chemical irritant into the room, he charged out yelling that he had a gun and was going to kill police. Officials say he grabbed one officer’s AR-15 automatic rifle and attempted to disarm them. That officer was able to maintain control of the gun and the SWAT team got him under control and arrested him.

Investigators eventually received a warrant to search a Woodbury storage unit rented in Jorgenson’s roommate’s name, which was opened with a key found in Jorgensen’s apartment, the prosecutors said.

Inside the police unit located two coolers and a duffle bag that contained human remains. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the remains belonged to Starren through dental records and tattoos.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family and friends,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement Friday. “The tireless work of our partners in law enforcement, especially the Saint Paul Police Department, made charging this tragic and horrific case possible; we appreciate the hard work of investigators and also our prosecution staff in quickly bringing forward these new charges.”

In addition to Starren’s death, Sgt. Ernster said his department has reason to believe Jorgenson is connected to another missing person case. During Friday’s press conference, Ernster said during their investigation officers learned of a possible relationship between Jorgenson and Fanta Xayavong, who was 33 when she was last seen in July 2021. A missing person report was not made until May 2023, police said.

“To put it bluntly, we’re concerned for her safety also,” Ernster said.

Xayavong was last seen with Jorgenson, and his last known location is possibly Shoreview, police said. Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call 911 or 651-291-1111 to speak with an officer.

Jorgenson remains in the Ramsey County Jail. Court records indicate he made his first appearance Friday afternoon.


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