This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Investigators are trying to determine whether the beating death of a Duchesne County woman, allegedly at the hands of five people, was recorded, according to court documents.
In addition, newly unsealed search warrants filed in 8th District Court state that before she died, Sherry Melo was able to provide key information to authorities, including identifying her attackers.
Thomas Neil Tuinman, 35; Michael Wallace Tuinman, 30; Samantha Tuinman, 30; Stephanie Ann Tuinman, 33; and Byron Rashad Thompson, 29; are all charged in 8th District Court with aggravated murder, aggravated assault and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies. Their charges were upgraded last week from attempted murder after Melo died on April 22 due to her injuries.
A fifth member of the Tuinman family was also charged on Thursday. Nicole Marie Tuinman, 27, is charged with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony.
On April 6, at a residence in the Vonsville area near Roosevelt, Richard Hoke was in the kitchen and his wife, Melo, was lying on the couch in the living room when "Richard heard Sherry scream as she went running past him out the back door. Richard said he threw a fan on the floor to slow down people who were running through his house after him. Richard fell when he got outside and was hit and kicked multiple times with items that were lying around the backyard. When Richard was transported to the hospital his hair was matted to his head from blood from his body," according to a warrant.
A Duchesne County sheriff's deputy noted in his warrant, "The male subject told me that he had been beat with pieces of wood and other objects from his backyard and had also been punched and kicked while he was on the ground behind his house.
"He had some swelling on his face above his eyes. He had marks on his back that were round and about the same size as the head of a standard hammer," the warrant continued.
Melo made it to a fence in the backyard where she was "brutally assaulted," the warrant states.
"One of the suspects indicted that they kicked and punched Sherry and Richard and then they started to hit them with anything they could find on the ground lying about," according to the warrant.
A sheriff's deputy who arrived at the scene noted in his warrant, "I saw a woman sitting on the porch next door to this address surrounded by a few other people and she was screaming in pain. … She said somebody had broken their front door and beat them up."
Melo was taken to a local hospital where "it was learned that (Melo) had some internal bleeding on her brain and she told me that one of the female suspects had hit her with a bat in the head," the warrant states.
Melo's injuries "were life-threatening," police stated in their warrants. But she was able to initially talk to sheriff's deputies.
"(Her) right eye was swollen almost completely shut. She was still bleeding from her nose as she tried to speak with me. She was having a hard time talking and so I gave her a piece of paper to write things on for me. She said she was struck by a bat on her left side of her head. She had hemorrhaging on that side and it was later learned that she had an artery or vein in her neck that had slightly torn and caused a blood clot in her neck," the warrant states.
During the attack, Melo said she "saw a flash and believed that someone was videoing the assault as it was taking place," according to the warrant.
On April 7, Stephanie Tuinman was stopped by a sheriff's deputy who noted she had a cellphone, according to the warrant. The next day, she was stopped again and asked about the phone. She told deputies that she had lost it, the warrant states.
"It is believed that one or more of the suspects videoed the assault on Richard and Sherry," according to the warrant.
A motive for the brutal attacks has not been revealed.