Co-workers say murder victim was ‘full of life’

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A black bow hangs at Einstein Bros Bagels in the Trojan Center food court in memory of slain employee Melissa Shipman.

Something was off Monday morning at the food court in the university’s Trojan Center. It was quiet. There was no laughter. Melissa Shipman wasn’t there.

Shipman, a Trojan Dining Services employee of three and a half years, was usually behind the counter at Einstein Bros Bagels by 8 a.m. with a smile on her face and a laugh that radiated through the building.

But Saturday, at about 3 p.m., a co-worker discovered Shipman’s body in her home at Troy Villa Apartments. He’d gone to visit and as he knocked on the door, the door pushed open. He found Shipman had been shot to death.

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“It is a complete waste of a great life,” said TDS Director of Operations James Quinn. “She had so much potential, so much future.”

Shipman was 29 at the time of her murder and is described by her employers as a character who was loud and full of life.

“Every morning I would come in here and get my coffee,” said Ibrahim Yildirim, TDS general manager. “Monday, she wasn’t here. Monday, I couldn’t spend time here. I couldn’t accept it.”

Quickly after the discovery of Shipman’s body on Saturday, a warrant was signed for the arrest of suspected murderer Suroy Manquel Wheeler, 33. Wheeler was arrested Monday night about 5 p.m. in Oxnard, Cali. by the Oxnard Police Department after a tip was called in to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department that Wheeler was on a bus bound for Oxnard. Wheeler’s bond has been set at $100,000 and he will be extradited back to Troy. Shipman’s co-workers said she’d been dating Wheeler for a short time.

TDS employees are helping each other cope with Shipman’s murder, Yildirim said, but their mood has been “dim” since the crime. A black bow now hangs at Einstein Bros. in memory of the slain woman and her co-workers are wearing black ribbons in her honor.

“She had a great personality,” Quinn said. “She had a distinct voice. You would come in here and know Melissa was here. Everyone can feel something is missing, now.”

Shipman’s mother died when she was 15, so Trojan Dining Services and Sodexo are providing up to $10,000 to help Shipman’s family with funeral expenses and they’ll also be providing food.

“But that doesn’t feel like enough,” Yildirim said. “She did her job with integrity, honesty and she was good with people. She was respectful. She was too young for this.”

Yildirim said that Shipman had been taking some college courses and was talking about going back to school.

“She was a part of the crew here,” Quinn said. “You hear about things going on, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to one of your own.”

Funeral services have not been set for Melissa Shipman.