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Clark County coroner IDs woman whose body was found in drum

Updated September 4, 2019 - 6:19 pm

A woman whose body was found in a 55-gallon drum recovered late Tuesday at a Las Vegas home died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.

She was identified Wednesday afternoon as 39-year-old Jennifer Ratay. Her death was ruled a homicide by the coroner’s office, which did not have a city or state of residence listed for the victim.

The suspect in her killing, Chuck Chaiyakul, 38, was ordered held without bail Wednesday at the Clark County Detention Center during a hearing in Las Vegas Justice Court. He faces charges of murder with a deadly weapon and being a prohibited person in possession of a gun, according to jail and court records.

Prosecutors Wednesday afternoon said Chaiyakul confessed to shooting and killing the woman and placing her body in the drum. Chaiyakul told a judge that he last worked as a butcher at a restaurant in March and has been unemployed since.

Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Ray Spencer said Ratay, who was last seen either Thursday night or early Friday, had been reported missing around 9 a.m. Tuesday, leading investigators to Garden Grove Avenue, near Rainbow Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

According to police, the man who initially reported her missing said she was getting a ride to his house from Chaiyakul on Thursday. He said she called him while she was on the way to his house, and “he could hear arguing and what sounded like a struggle” before the line went dead, police said.

The man said he had not heard from Ratay since.

On Wednesday morning, when reached by phone for comment on his son’s arrest, Nattasake Chaiyakul told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his son had been released from prison in December. The younger Chaiyakul was living with his mother in the home, which the father owns.

Nattasake Chaiyakul, who lives and works out of state, said he was unaware of his son’s arrest before speaking with the Review-Journal.

“Is it my wife?” he frantically asked when told a woman’s body had been found inside the family’s home. But in a later phone conversation, Nattasake Chaiyakul said that he had been able to reach his wife and that she was OK.

Court records show that his son had served a minimum two-year sentence in connection with a 2017 case for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

According to the same records, he has a criminal history in the county dating back to at least 2005, when he pleaded guilty to manufacturing or importing dangerous weapons.

“We’re very close,” Nattasake Chaiyakul said of his relationship with his son, “but I don’t know what happened, how come he turned out to be hanging out with wrong people again.”

Neighbor Susan Tischer, 57, told the Review-Journal on Wednesday that the woman’s death has frightened the area, which she described as “a nice middle-class neighborhood.”

“I think it’s affected the neighborhood. We’re shocked,” Tischer said, adding that the only interactions she had with Chuck Chaiyakul were friendly waves or nods hello.

Tischer, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 23 years, said she believed Chuck Chaiyakul lived in the area for “about seven or eight years.”

Ratay’s death was the 95th homicide investigation in Clark County this year and the 71st investigated by Metro, according to records maintained by the Review-Journal.

The discovery of the missing woman’s body came two days after another missing woman’s body was found at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Katrina Campbell, 37, was reported missing to police on Friday. The body of a woman with the same name and age was pulled from Lake Mead on Sunday, according to the county coroner’s office. The cause and manner of her death have not been released.

Sharon Harrell, the longtime owner of TC’s World Famous Rib Crib, was reported missing before her body was found Aug. 28 inside her car, and police are investigating, family said. The cause and manner of her death also have not been released.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers David Ferrara and Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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