Family mourns death of assault victim
Michelle Stella dies of injuries from beating.
The sister of a 42-year-old woman who was assaulted in Gothenburg and died about three weeks later can’t believe Michelle Stella is gone.
“That’s what happens to other people,” said Cindy Rizzo of Bethel, CT.
Rizzo, 45, described her younger sister and only sibling as the life of the party.
“She was always happy and had sparkling blue eyes,” Rizzo said. “Everything she did was for Lucas (Stella’s 8-year-old son).”
Stella was beaten by her boyfriend after a wedding reception they had attended in the Gothenburg area on Sept. 17.
The Castle Rock, CO, resident died in a Colorado hospital on Oct. 10 where she had undergone emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm.
Colorado officials said an autopsy showed that Stella died of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm due to traumatic brain injury from the assault and that her death was from homicide.
On the night of Sept. 17, police officers and members of the Gothenburg Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of a one vehicle injury accident on Highway 30, just east of Gothenburg, according to police chief Randy Olson.
Upon their arrival, officers were flagged down by Lucas who directed them to his injured mother who was lying in the westbound lane. Olson said she had suffered severe face and head injuries.
Stella was taken to Gothenburg Memorial Hospital and transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney where she was listed in serious condition.
Olson said she was released on Sept. 24 and taken to her home in Castle Rock, CO, by her parents.
Rizzo said their parents, who live in Beacon, NY, flew to Nebraska to be with their daughter shortly after the assault.
“She was home for a week and had a seizure,” Rizzo said.
Before the assault, Olson said the boyfriend—39-year-old Eugene Melledy of Peyton, CO—had stopped the vehicle, removed Stella and struck her face and head with his fists.
During the beating, Stella told her son to run away which he did, hiding in a ditch until police arrived.
After the assault, Olson said Melledy drove his 2008 Nissan Armada SUV at a high rate of speed intentionally off the roadway and it rolled several times into an irrigation ditch.
Olson said Melledy was injured in the crash but left the vehicle and walked to the 900 block of 16th Street where he committed suicide.
Rizzo said Stella had dated Melledy since January. She said she and her daughters visited Stella last June when they met Melledy.
“We thought he was a great guy and never expected anything like this,” she said.
Rizzo said the sisters grew up in Beacon where Stella graduated from high school in 1986. She received a degree in fashion merchandising in 1988 from Bay Path Junior College in Longmeadow, MA.
She later moved to Castle Rock and was employed by Mamapedia—a San Francisco, CA, online community of mothers—at the time of her death.
Rizzo said Stella was divorced for several years and that her parents tried to get Stella and her son to return home.
“But she wanted Lucas to have time with his father who lives in the Castle Rock area,” Rizzo said, noting that Lucas is with his paternal grandparents.
One positive about the tragedy, Rizzo said, is that Stella donated her organs.
“She’s saved six lives already,” Rizzo said.
A wake for Stella is Friday and her funeral will be Saturday in Beacon, NY, where she will be buried.