Investigators are releasing more details about the murder and what they are calling the unprovoked attack of a 74-year-old woman in Lompoc last week and the “disturbing” events that followed.
Melissa Leigh Martin has been charged with murder in connection with the death of her neighbor, Eldri Terese Jauch.
Jauch was reported missing by her sister June 6 and last seen alive at a City Council meeting two days earlier, according to police.
Lompoc Police Detective Sergeant Agustin Arias says in the early-morning hours of June 5, loud music was coming from Martin’s apartment. Jauch reportedly went over there but never made it home.
For reasons still under investigation, police believe Martin, who had lived in the apartment for approximately 14 months, used a baseball bat to attack Jauch around 4 or 5 a.m. Arias says the victim had no defensive wounds. “She didn’t know what was going to happen to her,” he said.
Later that morning, police say the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office arrested Martin in Buellton for driving under the influence of drugs and driving a stolen vehicle.
But moments before, police say Martin went live on her Facebook page while driving from Lompoc to Buellton where she was “saying some pretty crazy stuff,” according to Arias, who did not want to go into detail about the video but said it was “very disturbing” and gave a glimpse into what she had going on at the time. Facebook has since taken the video down, Arias said.
The suspect also posted on her Facebook page Friday about a campaign called, “Melissa’s Personal Emergency Fundraiser.” Martin stated she was in need of $2,000 for wrongful imprisonment and bail she owed from her arrest earlier in the week.
Jauch’s body was not discovered inside Martin’s apartment until a witness on Saturday provided information to police on the possible location of the then-missing woman, according to police. Martin was arrested for the murder Monday afternoon.
Arias has been with the Lompoc Police Department for 20 years. “I have some seen some pretty bad cases and murders that are pretty tough. I’d have to say this one is probably the worst I’ve seen. It was very violent,” he told KSBY News.
While charges have been filed against Martin, the murder investigation is not finished. Arias says they are still conducting interviews, meeting with witnesses and talking to friends of the victim.
“It seems like she (Jauch) loved everybody and was good to everybody. All we get from people is that she was that type of lady. She was a helpful woman. So, it’s kind of a tough one. It’s an unprovoked attack,” Arias said.
Following the June 6 missing person’s report filed by Jauch’s sister, police say they went to her apartment numerous times. The lights and TV were on but no one answered the door, no one was home, Arias said.
Many people have been asking about budget cuts in the city affecting the Lompoc Police Department and their work, according to Arias, but the detective sergeant says they’re not worried about that right now.
“This lady was attacked viciously and it was a very violent event and people need time to mourn that and she was friends to a lot of people and there are a lot of people hurting,” Arias said.
“Violence has nothing to do with budget cuts or anything like that. We’re committed to working and working hard and I’m just glad we’re able to give closure to the family and at least their grieving process (with a suspect now in custody) is not without an ending.”
While an exact motive has not been disclosed by authorities, they say they do believe Martin was under the influence of drugs at the time.
The North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center will hold a candlelight vigil in Jauch’s honor Saturday night.
Jauch, a community activist who the mayor says fought for worthy causes in the Lompoc community, was training to be a victim advocate for the center but never completed that training.
“She didn’t deserve to get treated this way, get beaten this way,” Arias said. “It’s terrible. It’s a terrible event.”
Martin, who has not entered a plea, is due back in court for continued arraignment July 2.
She is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on more than $2 million bail.