POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Melissa Kaehler repeatedly phoned her mother in Maine and told her of the abuse she was suffering, her mother said.
Her mother urged her to move from South Florida to Maine, but the plan never materialized.
Kaehler, 35, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Stephen K. Bradley, 27, of Margate, before he killed himself, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. On Tuesday, three days after Kaehler’s body was found in a car outside a Pompano Beach Walmart, her mother still was mourning.
“She’s very sadly missed,” said Pamela King, 65, of Glenburn, Maine. “She was more book smart than she was street smart. She saw good in everyone. She thought more of other people than herself.”
Kaehler graduated from Hermon High School in 1994 and Husson College in 2001. She received a degree in finance and computer science. She also was part of the Who’s Who Among Students, a program recognizing academic achievement.
King described her daughter as an outgoing and giving person from Maine who had had drug problems. Seeking a fresh start, Kaehler moved to South Florida, where she met Bradley about three years ago, her mother said.
The couple had a love-hate relationship that was marred by violence, including him beating her and knocking her out, King said. Kaehler broke up with Bradley last month, she said.
Saturday morning, Kaehler was found dead in a car parked outside Walmart, 2300 W. Atlantic Blvd., the Sheriff’s Office said. King said a sheriff’s detective told her that Bradley was seen on surveillance video buying a dress at Walmart.
King questioned whether Bradley used the dress to stage Kaehler’s body inside the car. Investigators also removed from the car enough flower bouquets to fill a shopping cart.
“He laid her out as though he respected her,” King said. “That’s the coward’s way out.”
That same morning, Bradley’s body was found in a canal about 7 miles west in Coral Springs. A suicide note was found near his body, “detailing what he had done,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The letter stated something to the effect of, “If I can’t have her, nobody else can,” King said.
The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating and hasn’t released additional details.
After college, Kaehler then got into trouble with the law, records show.
She was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, according to a 2005 article from the Bangor Daily News. The case stemmed from her selling a half-ounce of cocaine to a confidential informant.
In South Florida, Kaehler worked at Jaxson’s ice cream parlor, then Kaplan University, her mother said. When Kaehler started dating Bradley, she sent pictures of him to her mother.
She told her mother at that time, “This is the man I want to marry.”
Sun Sentinel researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
© 2012 the Sun Sentinel
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