The system failed Melissa Rodriguez.
Her family did the right thing, taking steps to remove her from an allegedly abusive relationship. They called police. She moved home. They kept an eye on her.
Even her accused killer, Mikael Loyd, apparently tried more than once before she died to get Omaha police to arrest him on a warrant for allegedly assaulting her.
The failure to intervene, which ended with Rodriguez in a grave dug for someone else, points to problems that must be addressed.
Mistakes do happen, but this cannot happen again.
In Omaha and across the Midlands, there are too many Melissas and their families looking for ways to escape abusive relationships. And there are too many people who, without serious-minded changes, might not come forward.
Obviously, the case is still under investigation and all the answers to exactly what happened are not yet known. So final judgments must be reserved until all the facts are on the table.
However, if Rodriguez died at the hand of a man who voluntarily contacted police multiple times, for whom an arrest warrant was outstanding, then procedures need to be examined carefully.
Loyd had initially contacted Omaha police to talk about his father’s slaying, a case unrelated to the warrant charging him with assault and battery of his girlfriend, Rodriguez. But that warrant had been issued before authorities chose to place him in emergency protective custody because of his strange behavior.
Why wasn’t he arrested first?
Even if the choice not to arrest him at that initial meeting is explained as a humane effort to stabilize a mentally ill person before taking him into custody, it appears that additional chances to intervene were missed.
Loyd later called police from his mental health placement at Lasting Hope Recovery Center and asked to be arrested on the warrant.
Police say they had asked the Lasting Hope staff to notify them when Loyd was released. They say the center failed to do so. The center hasn’t commented.
Either way, the ball was dropped.
Then, in the hardest decision to swallow, Loyd called a third time, telling a homicide sergeant he’d spoken with before that he had been released from Lasting Hope. But Police Chief Todd Schmaderer found no record of an attempt to take Loyd into custody.
Hours later, Rodriguez, 19, was dead.
In his brief tenure as Omaha’s police chief, Schmaderer has demonstrated his willingness to upend the status quo and seek productive changes.
Omahans should be confident that he will get to the bottom of this tragedy.
Several issues need to be examined, starting with protocols for arresting people named in warrants, regardless of their current mental health status.
Police and health care providers also should be certain to establish a crystal-clear understanding of the legal status of each person authorities place in a care facility.
And there needs to be precise communication between officers and facility staff about what should be done when treatment is about to end and release is imminent.
Finally, an in-depth look is needed into the facts surrounding this specific case to see whether the actions of any of those involved show a need for new training or discipline.
From the facts known now, a domestic assault suspect contacted police three times but wasn’t arrested, and a young woman’s life was taken.
Making sure that doesn’t happen again won’t ease her family’s pain, but it would honor the too-short life of Melissa Rodriguez.