By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- Handheld candles glowed in Riverside Park in Vero Beach last week during a solemn vigil to remember the lives of four women found dead allegedly at the hands of men in their lives.
The vigil was organized by friends of Vero Beach resident Diana Duve, a 26-year-old nurse at Sebastian River Medical Center, who was found dead in Melbourne, strangled and bruised on June 23, but also recognized Bridget Marie Feacher Music, 30, who was also found dead June 23, in a canal in Fort Pierce with her throat cut.
Two other recent domestic violence-related homicide cases on the Treasure Coast came to light the same weekend, including the June 22 murder of Jessica Lashay Exantus, 22, stabbed to death by her boyfriend Tony Lamar Love, 25, of Riviera Beach, who surrendered to West Palm Beach police on June 23, and the June 23 murder of Grace Ann Assenza, 55, by her domestic partner Stephen Perduk, 50, in St. Lucie County. Mr. Perduk was arrested by the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.
"All four of these cases have a common thread: domestic violence, which sadly has become an epidemic in our area," said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara in a press release.
In the homicide investigation of Ms. Duve, the Vero Beach Police Department has charged Michael David Jones, 31, Ms. Duve's on and off-again boyfriend, with first degree murder.
Mr. Jones of 1620 42nd Square, Vero Beach, was first arrested by St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputies on violation of probation charges, then was transferred to Indian River County Jail once the Vero Beach Police Department discovered enough evidence to charge him with murder.
Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said Ms. Duve and Mr. Jones were last seen leaving a Vero Beach restaurant in the early morning hours of June 20. Ms. Duve's last communication with her family indicated by text that she would not be coming home that evening.
Sometime that day, possibly within hours of that text, Mr. Jones struck her on her face and body and strangled her with his hands, killing her, Chief Currey said.
Around 6 a.m. on June 21, police believe Mr. Jones put Ms. Duve's body in the trunk of her own vehicle, which he then drove to Melbourne, parked it, and called a taxi cab company to drive him back to Indian River County. He subsequently traveled to a Fort Pierce hotel, where he was arrested.
Law enforcement was able to track down Mr. Jones' path through the weekend by using digital technology in his cell phone. When cell phones are used, they send signals to nearby towers and those signals, or pings, led law enforcement to the approximate area where Ms. Duve's body was found and to where Mr. Jones was staying in Fort Pierce.
"This is a tragic case of dating and domestic violence by a weak, insecure, cowardly individual who felt the need to control his relationship with Diana Duve by way of verbal and physical abuse," he said.
"Quite frankly, Michael David Jones disgusts me and is a very poor excuse for a man," Chief Currey said.
Chief Currey said Ms. Duve and Mr. Jones were interviewed by police on April 30 when a neighbor of Mr. Jones called about a noise disturbance. Mr. Jones attributed the noise to "rough sex" and Ms. Duve said everything was fine and that she was about to leave.
Ms. Duve apparently confided to friends that the neighbor's call and police questions may have saved her from harm that evening, Chief Currey said.
The other case involving an Indian River County woman, Ms. Music, was handled by law enforcement from St. Lucie County.
Jacob Lee Music, 39, Ms. Music's estranged husband, is incarcerated in St. Lucie County Jail on a bond amount of $152,000 on charges of premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree arson, along with two extra charges from Indian River County of first-degree petit theft.
A motorist on U.S. 1 near the St. Lucie-Indian River County line reported a car on fire on June 22. The car belonged to a Vero Beach resident who had loaned it to Ms. Music, who had been reported missing. The next day, detectives found the body of Ms. Music on a canal bank with her throat cut.
Mr. Music had a history of violence with Ms. Music, included a 2010 arrest for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. During an interview with detectives, Mr. Music admitted to killing his estranged wife.
For more information about the Vero Beach Police Department, or to hear news from the department, visit www.vbpd.org or www.facebook.com/pages/Vero-Beach-Police-Department/259728310740075.