Samanata Shrestha was clever – she was studying to be a doctor and spoke four languages fluently. Kind, too, she volunteered at a local clinic. Also, beautiful and fun, she loved baking and seeing her friends. Maybe that’s why Jessica Ewing was in love with her…and why Samanata ended up dead. Murdered.
Samanata was so perfect. Except for one thing – she’d never seen The Lion King!
Jessica had. It was her favourite film. So the two made plans for a film night.
It was autumn 2013. Sam, 21, and Jessica, 22, were in the same Biology class at Virginia Tech.
They’d got chatting, found common ground. This was their first date. Or so Jessica thought.
Months later, Sam was dead. And Jessica Ewing had admitted killing her.
She’d beaten and strangled Sam. Then hidden her body in the back of Sam’s car. But when she realised she couldn’t get rid of it alone, she texted a friend to confess.
Now, in Virginia’s Montgomery County Circuit Court, she’d entered an Alford guilty plea to first-degree murder – where she maintained her innocence while admitting that the evidence the prosecution had would likely lead to a guilty verdict – and admitted a charge of altering, transporting or concealing a body.
By doing so, Ewing would spare Sam’s family the agony of a lengthy trial.
In return, she’d get to tell the judge her side of the story…in the hope, perhaps, of a lighter sentence.
Ewing was a high achiever. Just like her victim. She was clever. Played several instruments, worked as a volunteer.
But Ewing’s smile was a lie.
She claimed she’d been sexually abused as a kid.
Then, when she’d started at Virginia Tech in 2013, she’d apparently been raped at a party.
All the hurt, she bottled up.
And there was something else she didn’t want people to know. She was gay.
Brought up in a strict Baptist community in Easton, rural Maryland, Ewing was scared what people would think.
But then she’d met Sam. The two young women got on well. Ewing claimed they’d even kissed.
And, on 7 February 2014, Sam had invited Ewing over for dinner.
But when Ewing arrived, she was disappointed. She’d brought wine, spent hours choosing a dress.
But Sam was wearing a pair of slouchy jogging bottoms. Ewing was offended. Sam hadn’t made any effort.
But after Sam opened the wine, one thing led to another.
Only, afterwards, Sam told Ewing she was just ‘experimenting’.
‘I was hurt and upset,’ Ewing told the court.
‘I would say enraged… I loved Sam. I couldn’t believe that I could be just some experiment to her.’
Ewing snapped. And within minutes, she’d murdered Sam.
A crime of passion.
Lawyers representing Sam’s family spoke out…
For starters, Sam had a boyfriend. She was devoted to him. They were planning to get married…
So, while Ewing might have thought she was dating Sam, Sam didn’t.
Perhaps that’s why Ewing had snapped. She was humiliated, felt rejected.
Or, maybe this wasn’t a crime of passion. Maybe it had been planned all along.
The day before, Ewing had texted a friend.
Tomorrow night is worrisome, she’d written. And I can’t stop this idea. It slowly creeped its way to consume my black heart…
In court, Ewing said she’d been referring to sex.
She’d been expecting to do it with Sam that night. Much as she’d wanted it, she was struggling with the idea of having sex with another woman.
The lawyers disagreed, said it showed intent. She’d wanted to kill Sam.
But why? Jealousy? Fear? Did Ewing think she’d shared too much with the beautiful Sam?
In the days after the killing, Ewing hadn’t shown much thought for anyone except herself.
What the hell is my future going to be? she’d written in her diary. An eternity in prison? Death penalty – off on insanity, mental, what the f*ck have you done for that goddamn girl?
Jessica Ewing, 24, was jailed for 80 years for first-degree murder, to be served concurrently with five years for concealing Sam’s body.
After 45 years, the rest of the sentence will be suspended.
Ewing had told her story to the court. A story of two lives wasted. Hers. And her victim’s.