Melissa Thoma
26 Years Old

September 15, 1971 to August 28, 1998

Our only child, Melissa, was born on September 15, 1971. At a very young age, she strongly demonstrated her temper and desire for independence. She insisted on doing things for herself. Although she was shy in her early elementary years, Melissa never seemed to lack friends. As she grew older, she was more outgoing and loving. Even though she was attractive enough to model for a local department store, she was always taken back when people paid attention to her.

Melissa graduated with honors from Springdale High School in 1989. She went on to Washington and Jefferson College where she graduated with a 3.5 average, majoring in business. Her first job was a Merchandise Manager for J.C. Penney's in St. Clairsville, Ohio. After 2 and 1/2 years, she was promoted to Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, where she proudly bought her own townhouse and relished in being so independent. She was laid off from Penny's with 2 and 1/2 years, as they did a major downsizing.

Soon, she was employed and in training as an insurance consultant with J&H Marsh & McLennan in Pittsburgh. She began her new job in earnest and loved the traveling it demanded. This new career, however, was cut short by her perpetrator.

Melissa loved children - she babysat as soon as she was old enough. She took care of her young clients as if they were her own. We do believe that her murderer's children attracted Melissa and drew her into the fatal relationship. She even belonged to the Big Brother/Big Sister organization. She took her "little sister" many places during her free time.

Melissa hated exercise and dancing. She was a very indecisive person. She was always teased about her lack of coordination and did not like to cook. She loved food, though. Among her favorites were blue cheese dressing, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, egg salad, noodles with Ricotta cheese, Daddios pizza and stuffed shrimp with crabmeat. her favorite drinks were Margaritas and Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

Melissa was super organized, fun-loving, flaky and flirty. Her favorite vacation was to be a beach bum. She loved Myrtle Beach the best.

Melissa was a vivacious young adult who loved life. She was fun-loving, outgoing, caring, but intolerant of people who were not sincere.

Her sense of humor kept us laughing, her moodiness kept us anxious, but that smile - oh - that smile was so infectious! She seemed to talk with her eyes.

She was at the gateway of her life with a new career, a new relationship. She was finally a strong person who was trying to do the right thing for herself. Her compassion for others always seemed to come first, but she realized only too late that she had to begin thinking of herself. Her compassionate spirit will remain with us forever.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE MURDER

Melissa arrived home after a two week workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. She called me to inform me that she arrived safely and to tell her dad and me not to come down that evening because she had a date. Her date, John, arrived as I was talking on the phone with her. As she was telling John about her trip, they heard a "rustling" on the stairs. When they looked up, they saw Melissa's ex-boyfriend, Frank Kolenz. She had broken up with him three weeks prior. Frank threw a bag on the floor and said, "I have a present for you." She said she didn't want his present and pushed him and told him to get out of her house. With that he pulled out a gun and held Melissa and John hostage on the couch. Melissa got up to go to the phone. With that distraction, John was able to escape and go to his home next door to dial 911. Thirty seconds after the police arrived, they heard her screaming and then heard three shots. They broke the glass on the door to find Melissa in the foyer. She was shot in the torso, with one shot going right through her chest. Frank Kolenz then went upstairs and committed suicide. Melissa was life-flighted to a hospital where she was pronounced dead upon arrival. Frank got his way - he couldn't have her and neither could any one else, not even her parents.

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Melissa Thoma