Crime, Law and Justice

Charges filed after body found in back of car following crash near Rochester

A woman smiles in a selfie
Authorities have not said how Liara Tsai died, or offered details on any connections between Tsai and Margot Lewis.
Courtesy Liara Kaylee Tsai via Facebook

An Iowa woman was charged Tuesday with a felony count of concealing a dead body, after deputies responding to a car crash in southeast Minnesota last weekend found a woman deceased in the vehicle from injuries not suffered in the crash.

Margot Lewis, 32, of North Liberty, Iowa, appeared in Olmsted County District Court in Rochester on Tuesday.

Lewis is not charged with causing the death of 35-year-old Liara Tsai of Minneapolis. But she faces a single count of interfering with a dead body or death scene.

According to the criminal complaint, Olmsted County sheriff’s deputies responded to a single-vehicle crash on Saturday morning along Interstate 90 at the Eyota exit, east of Rochester.

Deputies found the driver of the Chevrolet Sonic — identified as Lewis — with a passerby who happened upon the crash. Bystanders told deputies that they believed there was someone injured or dead still in the car.

A sheriff’s deputy looked in the rear of the car and found a body wrapped in a bed sheet that appeared to stained with dried blood, along with a blanket, futon mattress and tarp.

“It was apparent ... that the death of the person found in the back seat was not a result of the traffic crash,” the complaint states.

The victim — identified by Olmsted County officials as Tsai — was the owner of the car. An autopsy found she died from multiple sharp-force injuries. Authorities have not offered details on any connections between Tsai and Lewis.

Lewis was evaluated at a medical facility after the crash, then taken to jail. The complaint states that Lewis “did not respond audibly to detention staff or investigators.”

The Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are also involved in the investigation.

Minneapolis police said they were contacted on Saturday to do a welfare check at Tsai’s residence in the city and found “a scene indicating violence.”

A judge on Tuesday set bail for Lewis at $1 million. She’s due back in court on July 5.