Sunday, June 10, 2012

Benson, NE: Ex-boyfriend arrested in Benson student's death

A 16-year-old Benson High student was strangled under the Blondo Street bridge at Cole Creek last month and authorities said the main suspect is her ex-boyfriend.
A prolific writer, Melanie E. Koontz poured her thoughts into a notebook that is now in the hands of Omaha police detectives.

The writings will perhaps yield some insight into the relationship Koontz had with her former boyfriend, Justin M. Lenz, who on Thursday was arrested on suspicion of killing the high school freshman.

Lenz appeared this afternoon in adult court on one count each of first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. A judge ordered him held without bail at the Douglas County Youth Center.

Koontz's body was found about 11 a.m. on May 15 in Cole Creek, below a bridge near 78th Street on Blondo Street.

Lenz's home is about a mile from Koontz's and about the same distance from where she was killed.

Lenz was enrolled at Benson High School until November 2011, a school district spokeswoman said. He was in 10th grade. The spokeswoman declined to say under what circumstances Lenz left the district.

In March, Lenz admitted in Douglas County Juvenile Court that he possessed a small amount of marijuana or a synthetic form of the drug and drug paraphernalia, according to court records. In October, he admitted to disorderly conduct.

Lenz's former neighbor said she knew and liked Lenz and was sorry to hear of his arrest. The Lenz family lived near Spencer Street and Northwest Radial until about a month ago, the neighbor said. On his most recent arrest sheet, Lenz lists an address near 65th and Decatur Streets.

Koontz's father, Andrew Koontz, said Lenz had dated his daughter but he did not know the teen well.

He said his daughter often listened to country and hip-hop music.

“She was young and loving,” he said. “Full of life.”

The father, who last saw his daughter before he went to bed the night before she was found, said he was glad there has been an arrest in the case.

Still, the satisfaction was tempered with the reality that he will never again see his daughter the only woman or girl slain in the city this year.

“Nothing's going to bring Melanie back,” he said.

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