Austin Michael Medeiros must stand trial for the alleged murder of Emily Lobba, a 28-year-old disabled woman who was found strangled to death on April 3, 2022 in her apartment on Greenwood Heights Road.
Yesterday Judge John Feeney held the 28-year-old Medeiros to answer on charges of murdering Lobba and assaulting her caretaker, who was punched in the face when she tried to stop Medeiros from stealing Lobba’s Dodge van. He also was held to answer for an alleged attack on a jail correctional officer a few weeks after his arrest.
Deputy District Attorney Candace Myers called four officers to testify during Medeiros’s preliminary hearing, which had been postponed several times because of questions about his mental competency.
According to witness testimony, Lobba was born with arthrogryposis, which affects the joints and ligaments and limits mobility. She had two caretakers who were at her apartment for a total of six days a week. Lobba had introduced her friend Austin to at least one of them, and said she planned to spend some time with him because he was leaving town.
On April 3, when one of the caretakers arrived for her usual shift, she found the door locked. Then Medeiros opened the door but wouldn’t let her in.
‘’She pushed her way in,” sheriff’s Investigator Scott Hicks testified this afternoon. The caretaker told Hicks she and Medeiros had a physical altercation. He then left with the keys to Lobba’s Dodge Ram van, she told Hicks, and while she was trying to stop him from leaving “Austin hit (the caretaker) in the face.”
As to Lobba’s apartment, “Almost everything was missing,” Hicks said.
Under cross-examination by Medeiros’s defense attorney, Deputy Conflict Counsel Owen Tipps, Hicks said the caretaker reported that at one point, Medeiros told her “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Lobba was found in the bathroom, with the upper half of her body in the shower stall. Sheriff’s Sgt. Brandon Head testified he saw no obvious injuries. But when Head attended Lobba’s autopsy on April 27, the cause of death was ruled as “asphyxiation with the elements of neck compression.”
Head compiled a photo lineup that included a picture of Medeiros. There were six manila envelopes, each containing one photo. He provided the six envelopes to the caretaker who confronted Medeiros on April 3.
“I handed her the manila envelopes and walked away,” Head testified. He said the caretaker chose the photo of Medeiros, saying she was “100 percent positive” he was the man she had met and fought with.
Head also testified about his interview with Medeiros in Humboldt County Correctional Facility. He said Medeiros made numerous nonsensical statements, including some about a group called The Wrecking Crew. When asked whether he had a California driver’s license, Medeiros explained he “dropped his wallet in the water in a spot where he thought a body was, and the people who left the body there were the Wrecking Crew.”
Medeiros told Head he had a phone, and he gave him the number. Later the phone was found In Lobba’s apartment.
After the body was found and Medeiros allegedly fled, a hair-raising chase ensued.
Sheriff’s Deputy Hal Esget was dispatched to the Greenwood Heights residence at about 11 a.m. on April 3. The lights and siren were on as he drove south on Old Arcata Road. Then Esget saw the van in question heading north, and he did a quick U-Turn and began the pursuit.
“It took off at a high rate of speed,” Esget testified. He estimated the van was traveling 80 mph on Old Arcata Road. It continued past the Indianola Cutoff at about 70 mph. Then, around Vitus Lane, the driver veered into the wrong lane and was maneuvering between oncoming vehicles.
At Bayside Cutoff, Esget said, the van turned west toward Highway 101, reached 101 and headed north at an estimated 100 mph. The van exited in Arcata, finally stopping at the entrance to the Arcata Community Forest. The driver fled into the woods and could not be found. Medeiros was arrested a few days later in Santa Cruz.
No mention was made about the fate of Lobba’s dog, which was in the van.
About three weeks after the arrest, Medeiros allegedly attacked correctional Deputy Richard Sanchez as Sanchez was conducting a routine inmate count at the jail. Medeiros allegedly used a sharpened plastic fork, leaving a scratch on the left side of the officer’s head.
Medeiros is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Feb. 15.
- Suspect, Victim Named in Kneeland Homicide; Public Urged to Be on the Lookout, Motorists Warned Suspect May be Attempting to Hitchhike South
- Kneeland Homicide Suspect Arrested in Santa Cruz Yesterday; Suspect Had Loaded Stolen Firearm and Mushrooms in His Possession, Sheriff’s Office Says
- Kneeland Homicide Suspect Transferred Back to Humboldt, Will Be Arraigned Next Week
- TODAY in COURT: Fieldbrook Kneeland Murder Suspect Says He Wants to Hire His Own Lawyer
- TODAY IN COURT: Kneeland Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty
- Correctional Deputy Injured in Jail Assault by Kneeland Murder Suspect, Sheriff’s Office Says
- Criminal Proceedings Against Suspected Kneeland Killer Suspended; Judge Orders Psychiatric Evaluation
- TODAY in COURT: Man Who Bit Off Cop’s Thumb Gets Four Years and Change; Kneeland Murder Suspect Says He’s Not Insane, but a Doctor Disagrees; Sotolongo Jury Still Deliberating
- Case Against Greenwood Heights Murder Suspect Suspended Again While Court Seeks a Psychiatric Second Opinion
- TODAY in COURT: Mistake Delays Fortuna Teacher’s Preliminary Hearing on Child Molestation Charges; Mental Health Questions Hang Over Fortuna Terrorism Case, Kneeland Homicide