POWESHIEK COUNTY, IA – A routine car jump-start turned into a shocking discovery for Iowa state troopers when they found a deceased man, shot twice and hidden under a pile of clothes in the vehicle. The driver, 23-year-old Jihad Abdul Malik Gasaway, was initially arrested on Tuesday for abuse of a corpse and held at Poweshiek County Jail with a bail set at $50,000, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
The case took a turn on Thursday when an autopsy confirmed the death of the victim, identified as Kemp Xavier Sherrod Harriel, as a homicide. This led to an additional charge of first-degree murder against Gasaway. It remains unclear whether this development has affected Gasaway’s bail amount.
The incident began when troopers noticed a silver Chevy Malibu parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80 with Gasaway standing beside it around 8:10 a.m. on Tuesday. Gasaway informed the officers that his car needed a jump-start. During the interaction, Gasaway revealed he had a firearm, which the troopers secured along with the suspect.
Upon further inspection of the vehicle, officers discovered an unresponsive man, later identified as Harriel, slumped over the passenger seat and concealed under a pile of clothes. The officers quickly determined that Harriel had been shot twice in the chest. Gasaway had not informed anyone about the presence of Harriel in the car or sought medical assistance.
While in the trooper’s cruiser, Gasaway was reportedly recorded saying “please be OK” as the officers discovered Harriel’s body. A 9 mm shell casing was discovered on the floor of the car, and two fired bullets lodged in the passenger door matched Gasaway’s Taurus 9 mm handgun, as per crime lab testing.
During questioning at the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office, Gasaway claimed that he and Harriel had left Cedar Rapids for Des Moines alone that morning. He maintained that he was unaware of Harriel’s death until he saw the officers’ reactions. Gasaway also stated that Harriel was alive and conversing with him before the officers searched his vehicle. When questioned about the body being covered with clothes, Gasaway told investigators he thought Harriel was cold.
Further investigation revealed that the same Chevy Malibu had been reported in a ditch about 20 miles back along the road earlier that morning. When asked about Harriel’s condition at that time, Gasaway confirmed he was alive but offered a vague explanation of what transpired, stating “we got into it.”
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