A registered sex offender has been arrested on suspicion of murder, rape and sodomy in connection with the death of a young Willits woman, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported late Tuesday.
Terrell James Marshall Jr., 44, of Vacaville, was arrested Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of killing Kayla Grace Chesser, 25. Chesser’s body was discovered by friends early on the morning after Halloween at their Poppy Street home, where she was a guest. She had been socializing with a group of people but they dropped her off and continued to socialize elsewhere, sheriff’s officials said.
When her friends returned home, they found Marshall, the homeowner’s cousin, in the house and later found Chesser unresponsive in one of the bedrooms.
Chesser had been strangled and there were signs of sexual assault, sheriff’s officials said.
Marshall left the scene before police arrived but was apprehended later that day after driving his vehicle over a cliff near Covelo. Sheriff’s officials said at the time it may have been a suicide attempt.
Marshall was arrested following his release from the hospital at about 2 p.m.
He is being held without bail in the Mendocino County jail.
Chesser was a lifelong Willits resident who had attended Willits High, where she played basketball and was a cheerleader, according to a cousin. Her parents did not respond to requests for an interview.
Chesser loved to dance and had plans to own her own dance studio. She recently had been teaching belly dancing at Cloud 9 Studio and was part of a dance troupe, said the studio’s director.
She has been described as a talented dancer and as sweet, loving and “a beam of light.”
Hundreds of people attended a church service held for her in Willits.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@press democrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter