A man is in jail, charged with murdering his girlfriend after investigators say he beat her to death last week.
Randolph Melsness, 51, is being held on half a million dollar bond in the Eau Claire County Jail. Deputies arrested him Tuesday night after investigators say he fired shots in his mother's home, prompting his brother to call police. A search for weapons led deputies to his girlfriend's body.
“I’ve known Randy since we were kids. We grew up together, went to grade school together, junior high, high school,” says Tim Small.
Small grew up just across the road from Melsness's mother's Cameron St. home just outside of Eau Claire city limits.
“I'm shocked for words because he didn't ever hurt anything. You know. I don't know what happened,” Small says.
Investigators say Melsness was staying with his girlfriend, 51-year-old Renee Maki, in a camper in the backyard of his mother’s place. They say that's where Melsness beat her to death.
"It sounded like finances were difficult for both. He had a place to stay. After Friday, we found out, he was spending most of the nights on a sofa in the house," says Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer.
Cramer says it appears Maki was killed last Thursday or Friday. Prosecutors say Tuesday night, Melsness told a detective the two got into a fight and he punched Maki, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the head every time she tried to get up. Melsness said he left the camper after the beating and never went back.
"I talked to some people who have known her a number of years. They thought something like this would eventually happen. She didn't always find the right kind of person," says Cramer calling the murder a tragic example of domestic violence.
Small describes Melsness as a hard-worker and says he was a roofer.
Sheriff Cramer says Melsness’s mother and brother had no idea there was a body on the property or that he was in any kind of trouble. After deputies arrested Melsness for the shooting Tuesday night, it was his family who requested they search the property for more guns. The sheriff says they were fearful Melsness would be angry when he got home and afraid for their lives.
Melsness is also charged with possession of a firearm while intoxicated for Tuesday night's shooting. His family did not want to comment Wednesday night.