Prosecutors say Norfolk man killed girlfriend after judge granted him bond

NORFOLK, Va. - Circuit Court Judge Everett Martin granted Jeffery Jenkins bond in March with the instruction to stay away from his one-time girlfriend, Cassandra Saunders.

Unfortunately, prosecutors say Jenkins didn't listen and killed Saunders to prevent her from testifying against him, according to court documents.

The cleaning staff found Saunders dead inside a room at the Ramada Inn on N. Military Highway in July. Investigators originally classified her death as undetermined, but are now investigating it as a homicide.

So far, Jenkins is charged with concealing a dead body, but not murder. Still, in court documents prosecutors make it clear they believe Jenkins killed her.

The saga all began last February. Local attorney Jon Babineau was driving home from work when he says he saw a man "savagely" beating up a woman on 27th Street.

"He proceeded to put his hands around her neck, strangling her, lifting her off the ground," Babineau told News 3. "She went lifeless. Then, he threw her to the ground and began kicking her violently."

Babineau circled back and called 911. He began to get ready to intervene with his concealed weapon when officers arrived and arrested Jenkins, charging him with strangulation and assault and battery of a family member. Court documents say he was beating up Saunders.

"I knew that if I didn't intercede or the police didn't get there quickly this woman was going to die," he said. "This man was in a rage."

A Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge denied Jenkins bond, but Jenkins appealed to Circuit Court. In March, Judge Martin granted him a $15,000 surety bond. Jenkins was then released from jail.

On July 15, the cleaning staff at the Ramada discovered Saunders in a hotel room bathtub, court documents say. Investigators immediately responded and reviewed security footage of the hotel.

The video showed Saunders and Jenkins entering the room together at about 11:30 pm. Just before 3 a.m., Jenkins is seen exiting the room alone, according to the court documents.

Following her death, Jenkins was arrested again. The Medical Examiner later ruled Saunders died from asphyxia and ruled the death a homicide.

Saunders died the day before she was at one time scheduled to testify against him in court in the original case. "[Jenkins] did not kill Ms. Saunders on a random date; he killed her the night before what was supposed to be preliminary hearing for his strangling of her," prosecutor Mary Button wrote.

Babineau remembers that his witness testimony was going to be pushed back to a later date. "It was completely disheartening," he said. "This poor woman that obviously had been subjected to abuse this man - she ends up dead."

This time Jenkins remains behind bars without bond. News 3 reached out to Judge Martin to ask him if he regrets giving Jenkins bond in March. In response, his office directed a reporter to the code of conduct for judges that says they can't comment publicly about pending cases.

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