Cirque performer charged in slaying of Vegas dancer
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A Cirque du Soleil performer appeared in court via closed-circuit video on Tuesday to face a murder charge in the death of a Las Vegas burlesque dancer whose remains were found over the weekend encased in cement.
Jason Omar Griffith, 32, is suspected of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Las Vegas Strip dancer Deborah Flores-Narvaez, 32, during an argument last month, then cutting her body into pieces and disposing of them in two cement-filled plastic tubs.
Flores-Narvaez, who performed in the burlesque show "Fantasy" at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, had been missing for several weeks when authorities found the tubs containing her dismembered remains on Saturday behind a sealed closet door inside a Las Vegas house.
Police, acting on tips from acquaintances of Griffith, one of whom admitted to helping him dispose of the body, took the suspect into custody at his place of work on Saturday night, according to the arrest report.
Griffith, who has performed in the Beatles-based Cirque du Soleil show "Love" at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, was advised of the murder charge against him and ordered to remain held without bond during a remote video appearance in court from the Clark County Detention Center.
Dressed in a black jumpsuit and standing before a microphone with his hands behind his back, Griffith stared straight into the camera and said nothing during the brief proceeding. Formal arraignment was set for Wednesday morning.
Also Tuesday morning, the Clark County coroner's office ruled that Flores-Narvaez had died from asphyxiation due to neck compression.
Although he never gave a formal statement to police, Griffith allegedly told a detective that his former girlfriend's death resulted from "a heat-of-the-moment thing that happened," according to the arrest report.
One friend of Griffith's told police the pair had quarreled on the night of December 12, the last time Flores-Narvaez was seen alive. She failed to show up for a "Fantasy" rehearsal the next day and was subsequently reported missing.
Her disappearance made national headlines in celebrity magazines and the tabloid press, climaxing with the discovery of her body and Griffith's arrest over the weekend.
According to the arrest report, police obtained their first detailed account of the slaying on January 7 and were led to the victim's remains by Louis Colombo, a friend of Griffith who helped him hide the dancer's body.
Colombo has agreed to cooperate with investigators in return for immunity from prosecution, police say.
A key breakthrough in the investigation came a few days earlier when another acquaintance relayed information to police through a third party about Griffith having visited her house and asking to store a plastic tub there filled with cement. When she asked Griffith what was in the tub, he hesitated, then replied, "Debbie is in there," according to the arrest report.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)
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