American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda is in the Philadelphia suburb of Bensalem, PA, to investigate the savage murder of Christian Rojas, who was beaten to death in barbaric circumstances by James Savage and Heather Lavelle in 2004.
On August 27, 2004, the police found 28-year-old computer programmer Christian Rojas lying in a bathtub at his apartment in Bensalem. He had been beaten to death with brass knuckles, hog-tied, and was lying in the bathtub filled with bloody water.
The killers had been a drug-addicted couple; James Savage and his girlfriend, Heather Lavelle. The police determined that Rojas had also been tortured and robbed; they had stolen CDs, DVDs, computer items, and 40 dollars worth of cash.
Lavelle had previously been in a relationship with Rojas, but he had called a halt to their romance after learning she was addicted to crack cocaine. However, he had allowed Lavelle to stay at his apartment until about a week before the murder.
Heather Lavelle and James Savage fled the state after the murder
The cops eventually caught up to Lavelle and Savage in Nags Head, North Carolina, but not before they’d led the officers in a high-speed chase in Rojas’s stolen vehicle.
Savage initially told the investigators that Lavelle had claimed Rojas had raped her. But he also admitted that Lavelle might have been lying.
Lavelle told the officers that Savage had become jealous when he learned that she had a sexual relationship with Rojas.
Savage and Lavelle were faced with the prospect of execution; however, the death penalty was taken off the table after the murderous couple agreed to plead guilty. They confessed to killing Rojas for drug money and were both sentenced to spend the rest of their lives behind bars without the possibility of parole.
Lavelle was seen as an unlikely individual to end up a killer. She had a degree in engineering and had carved out a career for herself in the insurance industry. Unfortunately, she became addicted to crack cocaine, after which her life spiraled downwards.
More from American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda
Follow the links to examine more murders investigated by Lt. Joe Kenda.
Thurston Yerby beat Tina Towler and her boyfriend, James Ferguson, to death in their Laurel, MD, home because he was jealous of their relationship. He committed the murders in front of Towler’s severely disabled daughter.
Andrew Derenzy was a 16-year-old teenager from North Carolina with a promising future when he was abducted from a friend’s house by a group of thugs. He was bound up and robbed before Devon Hall shot him dead.
American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.