by Sophia Escudero
After one week at large, the suspect in a Kneeland homicide was taken into custody on April 10. Austin Michael Medeiros, 27, of Rhode Island, had been the subject of a search involving the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Arcata Police, and University Police following the suspicious death of a Kneeland woman, 28-year-old Emily Rose May Lobba, on April 3. Medeiros was apprehended in Santa Cruz attempting to steal a boat and was transferred to the Santa Cruz Police Department. SCPD officers found a stolen loaded gun and psychedelic mushrooms in Medeiros’ possession during a search.
On April 3, a caretaker arrived at Lobba’s residence and was denied entrance by Medeiros, leading to an argument. According to the caretaker, Medeiros and Lobba knew each other and had been spending time together the time prior to the incident. Medeiros assaulted the caretaker and fled the scene in Lobba’s vehicle, and the caretaker found Lobba deceased inside the home and contacted the authorities. A car chase between Medeiros and law enforcement ensued, ultimately resulting in Medeiros fleeing on foot into the Arcata Community Forest.
Poppy Cartledge, a journalism student, witnessed the chase, driving to a sporting event with her partner when she heard police sirens and pulled over.
“This van came right at us and swerved into our lane, and at first I thought it was a civilian driving, like, ‘ah, I gotta get out of the way real fast,’ but I realized they weren’t gonna stop, and then they ran the stop sign, and at that point I realized, this was a chase,” Cartledge said. “At that time, I thought it was just something with drugs, but it was crazy to find out it was a murder.”
This case is particularly close to the campus community after an alert to the student body informing them of a search in the Arcata Community Forest, followed by an update just two hours later saying that the search had ceased. Still, the suspect had not been found.
According to interim chief of University Police Peter Cress, the Sheriff’s Office had handled the majority of the search.
“We had one unit on duty that day, one officer, and when the pursuit finished up on Fickle Hill Road and it was reported that the subject had fled into the woods, our officer on duty, Sergeant Carpenter, went up to Redwood Park and asked folks to stay out of the park,” Cress said. “Obviously, if the suspect had run through the park, he would have detained him or gone after him, but he was mostly there just to keep people out of the park at that time.”
The search was conducted from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m and involved multiple ground crews, ATVs, and K-9 units. Officials called off the search when the suspect could not be found. According to Sheriff’s Office public information specialist Samantha Karges, it is believed that the suspect had fled the area soon after escaping the chase.
“It’s my impression that he got out pretty quickly,” Karges said. “A lot of the time people won’t hang around where they escaped. They know it’s a hot area, people are going to be looking for them, and they want to get out of town.”
It’s believed that Medeiros escaped to Santa Cruz by hitchhiking. No related violent incidents or injuries were reported during Medeiros’ time as a fugitive. Still, Karges urges members of the campus community always to be careful.
“You could be a victim of a crime at any time,” Karges said. “It’s really important that we are aware of our surroundings, who we’re hanging out with, where we’re going, what we’re doing, those sorts of things. I know in university, we meet a lot of people, we make risky decisions when we’re young, so really think through who you’re getting in a car with, whose house or room you’re going to. Be cautious of new people, and get to know them before you invite them where you live or get into a car with them. Just use an abundance of caution.”
Medeiros is currently being held in the Santa Cruz County Jail on charges of grand theft, carrying a loaded stolen firearm, and possession of a controlled substance. He ispending extradition to Humboldt County on charges of murder, evading an officer, assault and battery, and possession of a controlled substance. The bail is at $1 million.