For about two months, the man who stayed in Room 113 at the Mid City Inn in Euless, Texas, would sit outside, reading the Bible and encouraging others to come to church with him, according to a manager of the motel, Kanti Gandhi.
“He was a fanatic about the Bible,” Mr. Gandhi said, recalling how the man, Jason Alan Thornburg, once invited a woman who works at the inn at night to come to his room and study the Bible with him.
Now, the police say, Mr. Thornburg’s apparent fervor may have played a role in five homicides that he told detectives he had carried out. This week, he was charged with capital murder in the killing and dismemberment of three people at the motel, whose remains, the police said, he then burned in a dumpster.
During an interview with homicide detectives, Mr. Thornburg “described having an in-depth knowledge of the Bible and believed that he was being called to commit sacrifices,” according to an arrest warrant.
Mr. Thornburg, a 41-year-old electrician’s apprentice, also told detectives that he had “sacrificed” his roommate in May by cutting his throat and then uncapping a gas line and lighting a candle in their house in Fort Worth, according to the arrest warrant. The house exploded minutes after Mr. Thornburg left for work, the police said.
Because of the explosion, the medical examiner had not been able to determine how the roommate, whose name was redacted in the arrest warrant, had died, the police said.
Mr. Thornburg told the police that he had also “sacrificed” his girlfriend in Arizona. Her name was redacted in the warrant, which said she had been reported missing. He has not been charged in those two cases.
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Thornburg had a lawyer. Tarrant County jail records show that he was arrested on Monday and was being held for $1 million bond.
Mr. Thornburg did not have an extensive or violent criminal history, according to Sgt. Joe Loughman of the Fort Worth Police Department. “I really couldn’t even go into the psyche of somebody that is able to do this,” Sargeant Loughman said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Mr. Gandhi said he was wondering if Mr. Thornburg, who had helped him with a malfunctioning air-conditioner, really could have carried out such gruesome crimes. “He was a nice guy,” he said. “He never had any fights.”
The investigation began when firefighters were called to a dumpster fire in Fort Worth on Sept. 22 at 6:17 a.m., the police said. After putting out the flames, they found the remains of three people inside, the police said.
A tattoo on one of the victims helped investigators identify him as David Lueras, 42, the police said. Mr. Lueras “had shown up” at the Mid City Inn about five days earlier and had stayed in Mr. Thornburg’s room, the police said.
Mr. Thornburg cut his throat and dismembered him, the police said. He “believed that David needed to be sacrificed,” according to the arrest warrant.
The two other victims were women who had come to the motel several days after Mr. Lueras was killed, the police said. Mr. Thornburg said he had cut the throat of one of the women and had strangled the other, the police said.
The women’s names have not been released, the police said. Sargeant Loughman said that Mr. Thornburg had indicated that “he only knew them casually.”
The police were able to link the killings to Mr. Thornburg when they found surveillance video that showed a man driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee to the dumpster and then dumping the contents of several containers into it before lighting it on fire, according to the arrest warrant.
Detectives tracked the Jeep back to Mr. Thornburg, the police said.
Investigators also found surveillance video from the Mid City Inn on the night of the fire that showed a man carrying large containers from Room 113 into a Jeep, the police said. He was wearing a full-body suit of the sort that is sometimes used for painting or handling hazardous materials.
Mr. Ghandi said that Mr. Thornburg had been playing loud music in his room during the week that, police say, he was killing his victims. “It was so loud, people were disturbed upstairs and next door,” he said. “Mostly some church music, probably.”