WATERVILLE — Police said Thursday the body found in the basement of a Gold Street apartment building was that of 29-year-old Melissa Sousa, and that her longtime boyfriend, Nicholas Lovejoy, 28, had been charged with her murder.

Melissa Sousa Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Stephen H. McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, issued an announcement at 6:07 p.m. saying the state Medical Examiner’s Office had determined the remains were those of Sousa.

“The decision to charge Lovejoy was made by the Maine Attorney General’s Office this afternoon, as State and Waterville Police continued the investigation into the discovery of Sousa’s body,” McCausland wrote in his announcement.

“Lovejoy  remains at the Kennebec County Jail. He was arrested by Waterville Police late Tuesday night for having a loaded rifle in his vehicle.  He was informed of the murder charge at the jail a short time ago and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon at 3.”

Sousa was last seen Tuesday putting her twin daughters, 8, onto a school bus.

At midnight Tuesday, Lovejoy was arrested on Summer Street, near Gold Street, and charged with driving a vehicle with a loaded rifle in it and endangering the welfare of a child because the children had been left alone at their apartment.

Police found Sousa’s body in the basement of their apartment building at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Family and friends of Sousa say Lovejoy was mentally unstable and could not take the fact that she was planning to leave him and he would be without her.

The couple’s good friend Tasha Ahlgren, 37, described in great detail Thursday the events that apparently led up to the missing person’s case and Lovejoy’s arrest — a complicated set of circumstances, including an affair, anger on the part of Lovejoy, who apparently had mental health issues, and Sousa’s decision to move out of their apartment.

Ahlgren, of Winslow, and Lovejoy’s brother, Chris Lovejoy, 25, of Dexter, were grieving together Thursday for Sousa, though they were not yet aware the remains had been identified.

“It hurts really bad because I’m grieving for two people and I love Melissa so much,” Chris Lovejoy said. “I did see it coming and Melissa knew I saw it coming because I told her I saw it coming, especially since this whole affair.”

Chris Lovejoy said he tried to talk his brother and Sousa into getting mental health help for his brother, but neither would listen.

Nicholas Lovejoy several years ago was involved in a car accident outside of Boston. He struck a tree when he was driving 75 to 80 mph, leaving him in a coma for more than a month, his brother said, and Nicholas Lovejoy always suffered mental health issues following the accident.

“I told the detectives this — mental illness,” he said. “They said, ‘Is he crazy?’ and I said, ‘He’s a psychopath.’ He had an accident in 2012.”

Nicholas Lovejoy Photo courtesy of Kennebec County jail

Sousa was trying to get her own apartment, and Chris Lovejoy encouraged her to do that. He said he told her repeatedly it was not healthy being with his brother.

“He loved Mel in a way that was so messed up, and he didn’t see his life without her,” he said.

Ahlgren met Sousa about four years ago, when both worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, though Ahlgren, who lives on Taylor Road in Winslow, no longer works there.

Ahlgren and Sousa just clicked, Ahlgren said, and became fast friends with each other, Lovejoy and the couple’s twin girls. They would come to her home in Winslow all the time, have dinner together and go swimming with the twins and Ahlgren’s children, she said.

Nicholas Lovejoy moved a camper to Ahlgren’s property in Winslow. Police scoured the property Wednesday looking for clues as to Sousa’s whereabouts.

Ahlgren said she and Chris Lovejoy were asked to wait in a State Police van while officials searched the property.

Later, Ahlgren discovered police had dug a hole about 100 feet into the woods, behind the camper, and apparently removed something from it, although she did not know what had been found. She said the hole was longer than a rifle and about 8 inches deep.

“Whatever it was was big enough to fit into that hole,” Ahlgren said.

 

LAST SEEN

Ahlgren said Sousa had not been happy in her relationship with Nicholas Lovejoy for a long time and recently had an affair. Ahlgren said the affair did not last, but Sousa was still talking to the man.

Sousa and Nicholas Lovejoy had agreed to end their relationship and live separately, with Sousa planning to have the twins four days a week and Lovejoy three, according to Ahlgren.

“I was at her house Saturday night,” she said. “She asked me to come over because she said Nick was really freaking her out. She was in the living room and he was being very weird. I got him to put his guns away.”

Ahlgren said Nicholas Lovejoy was carrying a loaded gun around the room, and she talked him into taking the clip out of it and putting the gun down. He went to bed and she and Sousa then talked, she said.

“We had a really good conversation,’ Ahlgren said. “She was thankful and said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still here.'”

Sousa and Ahlgren fell asleep in the living room. Sousa got up at 2 a.m. to get ready for work at Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street. Ahlgren last talked with Sousa on Monday morning, she said.

While she and Sousa were best friends, Ahlgren said she also was very close to Nicholas Lovejoy, considered him to be like a brother and wanting the best for him and Sousa.

Lately, she said, he had started saying things that Ahlgren could not imagine he meant.

“He said that he was going to go to jail and she (Sousa) was going to be dead,” Ahlgren said. “I did not think he would do anything like this. I’m so close to Nick and Mel, we’re like my brother and sister. I love them both.”

Ahlgren said Lovejoy had a lot of firearms, both in his apartment and in the camper on her property. Police broke into the camper and confiscated the guns, she said.

Ahlgren said she went to work Tuesday and returned to her Winslow home at about 2 p.m., when Nicholas Lovejoy was there. He also had been there earlier in the day, and her baby sitter recalled later that Lovejoy took a shovel and walked away with it, she said.

Ahlgren had to go back to work Tuesday afternoon, and Nicholas Lovejoy said something she later realized was significant.

“He just said, ‘I loved her,’ and that’s what kind of stuck with me at around 4:30 or 5 o’clock,” Ahlgren said.

Ahlgren said Nicholas Lovejoy also hugged her, which was out of character. It was the last time she saw him.

Intermittently sobbing, Ahlgren said she has been kept in the dark about what is happening in the case, as police have not been giving her information.

“I know I’m not family or anything, but I’m part of this because, essentially, we were all friends,” she said.

She said she wanted people to know Sousa was doing the best she could because she did not want to have a broken family. Sousa wanted Lovejoy to be in her and their children’s lives, but she was not happy and could not live with him any longer.

“She was a loving, caring person,” Ahlgren said. “She just didn’t want to rip her kids away from him. She knew he had anger issues.”

 

A GRISLY DISCOVERY 

State and Waterville police found a body at about 4 p.m. Wednesday in the basement of the apartment building at 32 Gold St., McCausland said Wednesday.

The body was taken to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta, he said.

A co-worker of Sousa’s told the Morning Sentinel on Wednesday that Nicholas Lovejoy  had previously threatened to kill her.

Just after 6:30 a.m. Thursday, State Police vehicles were parked outside the apartment building, where the front door was open. A lone child stood at the corner of Summer and Gold streets, waiting for the school bus. Television crews were assembled outside the building.

Lovejoy was interviewed at the Waterville Police Department after his arrest and has cooperated with investigators, McCausland said Tuesday. He was later taken to the Kennebec County jail, where he is being held on $2,000 bail.

Waterville police asked the Maine State Police on Tuesday night for help in investigating the case, according to McCausland.

Before the body was discovered Wednesday, Megan Legasse, Sousa’s boss at Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street, where Sousa is a shift leader, said she and Sousa ride to work together every day and Sousa told her Lovejoy has threatened to kill her several times in front of their children.

“He’s locked her out of the house and pointed a gun at her while the girls were upstairs, looking out of the window,” Legasse said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “A week ago in the driveway, he pointed a gun at her and the kids were saying, ‘Don’t kill my mom.'”

At Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street at about 7 a.m. Thursday, employees were busy serving customers and said they would not comment on the case.

But Chris Moody, 69, who lives across Gold Street from Sousa’s apartment, said he was heartbroken to think a body was found in the basement and that it likely was Sousa.

“I feel terrible because I’m over here and she could have just grabbed the kids and come over here, or something,” Moody said Thursday morning.

He said he often saw her and Lovejoy and the children outside the apartment building.

“She’s such a cute little thing,” he said of Sousa. “I used to say to myself, ‘What’s that girl doing with that guy?’ I just don’t understand it. From all reports, she was a nice young girl and probably tried to be the best mother she could.

“I feel so bad. I just can’t imagine. It makes me cry that somebody is living in hell and you don’t even know it. She was just a little thing and he was awful. His eyes were just cold and evil.”

Friends of Sousa and Nicholas Lovejoy said they moved to Maine several years ago from Massachusetts.

Lovejoy has no criminal record in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.

Meanwhile, another friend of Sousa’s, Nikkia-Rai Vear, 35, of Waterville, said people are being asked to drop off purple flowers and stuffed animals outside the 32 Gold St. apartment building between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday. She said the color purple signifies domestic violence awareness. The stuffed animals would be given to affected children, she said.

“We’re trying to open it up to the public because we definitely want to get domestic violence awareness out there, especially Melissa’s story,” Vear said.

Another event will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Main Street Dunkin’ Donuts where Sousa worked, according to Vear, who said balloons will be released in her memory.

Vear said she met Sousa at Dunkin’ Donuts, where Vear worked for a time. Both women have twins and they would talk about them, she said.

“She had a personality that would just suck you right in,” Vear said. “Even if she was having a bad day she would try to make you feel better. She was always comforting and understanding, joking. Always the one that could get you out of that bad mood, even if she was struggling.”

Vear said before the body was identified Thursday that those who know Sousa did not want to believe it was her body.

“We haven’t been able to accept it,” Vear said. “I’m just so grateful that everything went the way it did — that he was arrested.”

Vear said Sousa always kept in touch with her friends. When she did not message them Tuesday and no one had heard from her, they tried to get in touch with her. They became concerned and asked police to conduct a welfare check.

 

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