Five days after a 23-year-old Boston woman vanished outside a Theatre District nightclub, her body was found in the trunk of a man’s vehicle Thursday in Delaware and he was arrested and accused of kidnapping her, authorities and family members said.
Family members said Thursday night that the body was that of Jassy Correia, the mother of a 2-year-old girl. Correia was last seen walking on Tremont Street early Sunday morning in the company of an unidentified man.
“She was a mother, she was brave, she was strong,” Correia’s cousin Katia Depina said Thursday night at a Dorchester home where family and friends had gathered. “She did not deserve this. She went out to celebrate her birthday and never returned home.’’
“We want justice for her death,” Depina said.
Depina said she did not know the suspect in Correia’s disappearance. Delaware State Police arrested Louis D. Coleman III, 32, Thursday, after a search that stretched over three states.
Delaware Online, the website of the News Journal of Wilmington, reported that Coleman was taken into custody after a police chase that ended on Interstate 95.
Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. told reporters that investigators had launched a homicide investigation. Police did not confirm the identity of the woman, and Boston police said the determination of the cause and manner of death was pending. Delaware State Police didn’t immediately provide information about Coleman’s arrest.
Correia left the Venu Nightclub at 12:15 a.m. Sunday. Wearing hoop earrings, an orange jumpsuit, and jean jacket decorated with red lips and pink wings, Correia was captured on surveillance video walking with an unidentified man and then climbing into a red vehicle with him at the intersection of Herald and Tremont streets.
Her disappearance prompted a plea from Boston police for information about her whereabouts, similar to the push investigators made in January after a 23-year-old woman disappeared outside a downtown bar. Investigators found the woman a few days later in the Charlestown apartment of Victor Pena, 38, who was charged with kidnapping.
This week’s investigation mobilized police in at least three states — Massachusetts, Delaware, and Rhode Island — and brought a large police presence to a six-story brick apartment building in Providence where Coleman lived.
Clements said Boston police had contacted the Providence department at 6:30 a.m. and asked for assistance.
Officers executed a search warrant at Coleman’s residence at 95 Chestnut St., and canvassed the area, scouring a nearby construction site and dumpster. The FBI and federal prosecutors were also called in, Clements said.
It remained unclear Thursday night where the woman died and, therefore, which agency would have jurisdiction over the investigation.
“We need to learn more about the case itself to find out where certain crimes were committed,” Clements said. “Right now, I think the ball is in Delaware’s court. They have the evidence down there.”
Coleman was not known to Providence police before Thursday, Clements said. He was last seen in the Providence area Thursday morning, Boston police said.
Prior to Coleman’s capture in Delaware, Boston police intensified the search for Correia by publishing a photograph of Coleman, a photo of a red vehicle that investigators believed he was driving, and the surveillance video.
As the search continued Thursday, Correia’s father asked the public to come forward with information about his daughter’s whereabouts.
“I need my daughter back,” Joaquin Correia, 50, who lives in Dorchester, said in a phone interview. “I want to see my daughter. . . . This situation is really bad.”
Correia said his daughter went out Saturday night with two female friends and a man. The man’s identity wasn’t clear.
“It’s very tough,” Joaquin Correia said. “It’s very tough to talk about.”
Thursday night, after the grim discovery in Delaware, a friend of Correia said the family set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for her young daughter.
“Women should have a right to go to any nightclub, and wear whatever they want to and not worry about being kidnapped and murdered at the end of the damn night,” said the friend, Joao DePina.
Outside Coleman’s apartment building, a neighbor said he appeared to be a “normal guy.”
Hector Fuentes, 30, said he saw Coleman on Tuesday when he held an elevator door open for him. Nothing seemed amiss, said Fuentes, who described Coleman as “clean cut.”
“No weird behavior,” Fuentes said, adding that he was “shocked” to learn Coleman had been implicated in the woman’s disappearance.
“It’s pretty disturbing actually,” Fuentes said. “It makes you feel uneasy.”
In the photo of Coleman released by Boston police, he was wearing a lanyard bearing the Raytheon logo. A Raytheon spokesman didn’t answer a question about whether Coleman worked there, but said the company is cooperating with investigators.
Coleman earned a master’s degree in physics two or three years ago from California State University in Long Beach, Calif., according to officials at the school.
Professor Thomas Gredig, a co-adviser for Coleman’s thesis, said his former student was interested in bioengineering and worked in an electrical engineering lab in graduate school. He said he hadn’t spoken with Coleman in a few years.