The man who police say murdered his ex-partner on June 28—and then turned himself in and confessed to the unreported crime three days later—had been released from Santa Cruz County Jail on June 25, where he was serving time for a felony assault conviction against the same victim.
Beau Joseph Paepke, 30, was prohibited from contacting 33-year-old Rachel “Elias” Meisenheimer by a restraining order. According to court records, Paepke had ignored at least three other similar orders that were supposed to stop him from contacting Meisenheimer.
The day before the suspected murder, Meisenheimer posted an announcement on Facebook about the news of the couple’s split.
“You ever broke up with someone and your WHOLE FAMILY was relieved?” the post reads.
Meisenheimer, who went by the pronouns they and them, was a model and music consultant at The Box, a goth club in Santa Cruz. They were also a prominent member of the greater Bay Area goth scene.
Meisenheimer’s friends say that the relationship between Paepke and them was fraught with abuse before he was arrested for it in December 2019.
Meisenheimer’s friend Sara Bucholz says that they were an innately creative person who infused art into everything they did, and inspired others to seek their own artistic passions.
“Everything was an art,” she says.
Meisenheimer was also a strong-willed person with a similarly strong moral compass, Bucholz says.
“There was definitely no bullshit. If they had something to say to you, you would know for sure,” Bucholz says.
According to Bucholz, the relationship between Paepke and Meisenheimer was turbulent and on-again, off-again, but took a turn for the worse after Meisenheimer became pregnant with their child and suffered a miscarriage.
“They were excited, and at that time Elias had a lot of nice things to say about him,” Bucholz said. “I think the miscarriage really screwed up things with them a lot.”
Bucholz says that the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) did not notify Meisenheimer when Paepke was released, which may have given them a chance to avoid him.
SCPD officials did not return a call for comment for this story before press time. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office also did not return calls seeking comment.
In a press release, SCPD said it found Meisenheimer’s body in a recreation vehicle (RV) parked on the 100 block of Front Street, after Paepke showed up to county jail and confessed to the murder. Paepke told investigators that he killed Meisenheimer inside the RV while it was parked on the 900 block of Soquel Avenue.
Bucholz says she wonders why he was released from jail with time served after having violated several protective orders, and several times abusing Meisenheimer.
“He is clearly not someone who should just be out and about,” she says.
Trouble between the two appears to date back to at least December 2019, when Paepke was charged with assaulting Meisenheimer, inflicting corporal injury, violating a protective order and committing a felony while on bail.
He was released on his own recognizance (O.R.) on Jan. 2, 2020, pending trial.
He was back in custody on Feb. 20 of that year for violating that restraining order. He was released again on O.R., which was revoked on May 18 of that year after he failed to report to pretrial services.
He was apparently out again when, on June 7 of this year, he was arrested for violating the protective order and assaulting Meisenheimer.
On June 25, Paepke pleaded no contest to the 2019 assault charge, and was sentenced to 88 days in jail, with credit for 44 days time served. The judge suspended the remainder of his sentence, and released him with 36 months probation and a new restraining order.
Paepke is in custody in Santa Cruz County Jail, where he is being held without bail on murder charges, jail records showed.
The fact that Paepke violated several restraining orders is not uncommon, says Laura Segura, co-executive director for Monarch Services, which helps domestic violence victims.
According to Segura, perpetrators violate roughly 50% of the restraining orders that Monarch Services helps victims attain.
Making the situation more complex is the myriad factors that make each case different, including whether children are involved.
“Every case and situation is unique and has a variety of circumstances,” Segura said.
Segura says that the most dangerous time for domestic violence victims is when they leave the relationship. Then, they face a 75% increase in risk for violence. This can last as long as two years, she adds.
That’s why when Monarch Services helps the victims develop escape plans, they include having a spare phone and cash, important documents and other essentials at the ready, in addition to having a place to go.
“They have to understand that this is going to be a dangerous time for them,” Segura said. “Things like this do happen, and that’s why it’s so important for survivors to know that support is available. It’s also important for us as a community to really take this issue very seriously and for bystanders to help when they can.”
The 24-Hour Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse and Human Trafficking Crisis Line is 888-900-4232.