By Melissa Hartman
SANTA CRUZ — In court on Wednesday, murder suspect Beau Paepke and his assigned representation turned his case on its head by announcing he would fight associated charges — contradicting Paepke’s confession given to police on July 1.
Paepke showed up at the Santa Cruz Police Department earlier this month and informed officers he had killed his partner of approximately five years Rachel “Elias” Meisenheimer, 33, and left her body in their RV parked outside of Kaiser Permanente Arena on Front Street. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He has been held without bail.
Paepke, 30, pleaded not guilty to three charges this week — felony murder, an enhancement for the seriousness of the felony and felony use of a deadly weapon — via Zoom. He was stationed at his attorney Art Dudley of Page and Dudley’s request in the jail’s Department 11 courtroom and listened in as Santa Cruz County Deputy District Attorney Kristal Salcido stood in front of Judge Paul Burdick to represent the people.
Salcido explained the people included Meisenheimer’s mother Monica Lennen, who sat in the back of the courtroom. The chambers were quiet as Salcido described Lennen as a mother and an advocate; Salcido and her office seek to become an advocate of fairness for her daughter’s loved ones after Meisenheimer became the second homicide victim this year in the city of Santa Cruz.
“The District Attorney’s Office is dedicated to justice for Rachel,” Salcido told the Sentinel after the arraignment, which was continued from the originally scheduled date of July 7.
Court records show that the Santa Cruz man had been released from custody just days before he previously alleged he had killed Meisenheimer. He was sentenced to probation after pleading no contest to a December 2019 felony assault causing great bodily injury charge; originally, charges against him included felony spousal abuse, misdemeanor contempt of a protective order and one enhancement for committing a felony while out on bail.
Paepke, through his lawyer, waived a right to a speedy trial so that his preliminary hearing can be held beyond the required 60-day time period.
“We need quite a bit of discovery,” Dudley explained before asking for a November preliminary hearing date.
Salcido said the District Attorney’s Office had spoken about an October date, so Burdick granted that request after Dudley conceded. Paepke’s preliminary hearing will take place at 8:15 a.m. Oct. 18 in Department 3.
Dudley was unavailable to speak to Paepke’s decision to plead not guilty or any other related matters Wednesday as it is his policy not to speak with anyone outside of his office about open cases.
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