A 19-year-old Omaha man was arrested Friday night in connection with the death of his girlfriend, whose body was found at the bottom of an open cemetery grave.
Mikael D. Loyd was booked at the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder about 8:45 p.m.
Lt. Darci Tierney, an Omaha police spokeswoman, declined to say when, where and how Melissa K. Rodriguez, 19, was killed. Those matters were under investigation, Tierney said.
Rodriguez family members say they suspect she was strangled.
“He's been arrested, and we're glad for that,” Angie Rodriguez, the victim's mother, said Friday night.
After learning of the arrest, about 100 friends and family members went to Hitchcock Park for a candlelight vigil. The park is adjacent to the cemetery where Melissa was found.
Loyd had no significant criminal history in Nebraska, except for traffic offenses and possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Police were called June 11 to Rodriguez's home and told that Loyd had grabbed Rodriguez by her arms, where she had bruises, during an argument.
She also had bruises on her legs, but she did not indicate whether those were caused by Loyd, according to court documents.
Rodriguez told officers she was “fine” and did not want to press charges. But her relatives remained concerned and later called a detective to say Loyd had taken Rodriguez's cellphone, leaving her out of touch.
“She stated she fears her daughter is in an abusive relationship and is afraid of Loyd,” Detective Denise Cunningham wrote in an affidavit of conversations she had with the mother.
Loyd's arrest Friday came 10 days after he was charged in a warrant with assault and battery in connection with the June incident.
At her relatives' urging, Rodriguez had recently left Loyd and returned to her parents' home, according to friends' social media posts. The home is about a mile from the cemetery.
Rodriguez's body was found Thursday at Graceland Park Cemetery at 42nd and L Streets.
“Melissa was a really good person,” said Angie Rodriguez. “She had a huge heart.”
Melissa Rodriguez, who was about to begin her sophomore year at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, had been a varsity softball player and performer with the dance team at South High School.
“I just want everybody to know how amazing she was,” her mother said. “She would help anybody in need.”
Workers arrived at the cemetery to place a burial vault inside a freshly dug grave just before 10 a.m. Thursday and discovered Rodriguez's body inside.
The grave was intended for another recent homicide victim, Kevin F. McIntyre, 28, who was shot and killed Aug. 4.