The body of a 21-year-old woman was found stuffed inside a sealed trash can on May 20 in a Denver self-storage unit. Police have arrested a suspect, Gregory Thomas, 36, who rented the space at FreeUp Storage in March. They believe the victim, Lavanya Jain, was killed on March 18, according to a court affidavit.
The gruesome discovery was made after an employee at 8700 Devonshire Blvd. noticed a horrible smell emanating from the unit, along with a liquid seeping from under the door. The manager notified the Adams County Sheriff’s Department on May 19, and a deputy visited the storage property to investigate.
The deputy was unable to reach Thomas by phone, but spoke with the emergency contact listed on his rental agreement. That person said she believed the space might’ve held a freezer full of deer meat. Unable to legally enter the unit at that time, the deputy filed a report and noted the suspicious call, the affidavit stated.
A FreeUp corporate manager reached Thomas on May 20 to discuss the smell and liquid. Though the tenant told the manager he’d clean up the mess, he never showed, and facility staff prepared to enter the space. They were rejoined by local deputies for the lock-cutting. An employee opened the trash can and saw a torso and foot.
Investigators tracked Thomas to Lynden, Washington, near the Canada-United States border. He was taken into custody on a parole violation.
Thomas told detectives he met Jain in late 2020 through an escort service. She asked him to partner with in white-collar crimes, he said. Jain soon began living in Thomas’ home and asked him to “take care” of people who had wronged her, the affidavit stated.
Thomas returned home from a job on March 19, believing Jain had vacated the premises, but found her sitting in the basement. He claimed she pointed a gun at him, and he shot her four times. He first hid the body in his bedroom, then moved her to the storage unit on March 23.
Thomas is being held at Adams County Detention Center on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with a deceased human body. He was previously sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty in 2015 to felony identity theft, court records show.
FreeUp Storage is the operating brand for Spartan Investment Group LLC, an acquisitions, development, real estate and management firm. The Golden, Colorado-based company owns 14 facilities in five states.