Lauderhill 32-year-old James Ayers visited a friend at work last Wednesday, according to police, and "went into great detail as to how he strangled 'Julie' and left her body in a room that he was renting somewhere in Broward County where he and Julie were staying." Ayers said the stench was so bad he had to move out of the room, which turned out to be in the 1100 block of NW Seventh Terrace in Fort Lauderdale.
Then things got complicated.
As Ayers drove off, the friend wrote down the New Jersey license plate number on the blue Scion Ayers was driving. He then called police, who discovered the car belonged to 19-year-old Juliana Mensch, from New Jersey. They also found that Mensch had stopped regular Facebook posts on March 23, the same day her parents say they lost contact with her.
Police didn't have to look hard to get to Ayers, according to the arrest report -- at 9 that night, Plantation Police were called because he was at the West Broward Care Center threatening to kill himself. Ayers had apparently gone there to visit a former drug counselor, and, "having heard rumor that Ayers had possibly killed someone," the counselor asked Ayers about it. So... Ayers told him the whole story. At some point after that, the police arrived, as they usually do when somebody goes around town talking about strangulations.
Ayers waived his Miranda rights and was questioned by the Broward Sheriff's Office, though available court documents don't say what was discussed. Police did find the number of Diane Rosa, his Fort Lauderdale landlord, in Ayers' phone, but had difficulty reaching her because she'd had a heart attack the day before. When they finally contacted her, she said she'd noticed that something "smelled dead" in Ayers' room and gave police permission to search the room.
When Ayers was told about this, he decided he finally needed a lawyer.
BSO detectives "noted the smell of what they recognized as decomposing flesh" as soon as they arrived at the house, according to the arrest report. They followed the smell to Ayers' room and looked inside to find a corpse under a pile of clothes. Early the next morning, police got a search warrant and found Mensch's purse and ID in the bedroom.
The arrest report lists charges for first-degree murder and a cocaine-related probation violation, but court records reflect only the murder charge.
Police are asking anyone with information to call Det. Mark Shotwell at 954-828-5517 or Det. James Jaggers at 954-828-5970.