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No Justice: To Karla on her 40th Birthday

March 22, 2010

Karla Meleg

March 20, 2010. Karla would have been 40 today, had her life not been cut short by a despicable coward in a senseless act of revenge.  Karla was the beautiful, blond haired daughter of my Aunt Lily Shuster, (Pauline’s daughter), and my uncle, Carlos Meleg, and the older sister of Ethan.

Karla Meleg

Karla Meleg

Karla and Ethan grew up in Kingsville, Ontario, a small, rural town known as the Southern Most Town in Canada.  Nestled on the banks of Lake Erie, it’s an old Victorian town surrounded by lush farmer’s fields that seem to stretch endlessly into the horizon.  As teenagers, both Karla and Ethan endured the coming of age summer job of de-tassling corn by hand; it was the parents’ way of ensuring that their children pursued higher education after high school, I suspect.

Karla Meleg in front, with her mom Lily behind. Pauline, her grandmother, is to the left.

Karla was a bubbly, fun-loving kid who excelled at sports, especially swimming, and I remember visiting her one sunny summer day in the late 1980’s when she was a lifeguard at the beach in Point Pelee National Park. As she strutted happily down the sand in her bathing suit to greet us, flowing curly locks and dark tan, every pair of eyes on the beach was fixated on her.

Point Pelee National Park

You couldn’t help but feel happy in the presence of Karla.  She was full of mischief, and when she smiled, her eyes smiled too – she had magnificent dancing and sparkling eyes.  Her mom, Aunt Lily has those eyes, Grandma Pauline had those eyes, and so does Ethan, and my dad.  They make your heart melt.

After high school, Karla flitted around somewhat, not quite sure what to do with her life. She worked at some mundane jobs, and then almost on a whim, decided one day to move to southern Florida, a place she had once fallen in love with during spring break.  She settled in Boca Raton, the tony neighborhood just north of Miami, and quickly landed a job as a nanny.

Coconut Beach, Ethan Meleg

She would go out to the clubs, made friends easily and was of course popular.  She dated a few men and then one day struck up a conversation with a young Englishman at a bar.  He was quick witted and charming, and Karla, who always saw the good in everyone, was soon dating him.  He worked in construction, and was close to the owner of the small construction company.

Red Reef Park in Boca Raton, FL

Not happy with her nanny job, she quit after a few months, and took on another, this time with an executive of Estee Lauder, her lawyer husband and two beautiful young daughters.  The house was in a gated community, and Karla moved into her own suite in the home. She loved the two girls, and was less fond of the parents, especially the mother who was often working late and was somewhat aloof and unfriendly towards Karla.

Boca Raton

Karla and her Englishman boyfriend had a rocky relationship. His temper and attempts to control Karla turned her off, and she soon called it quits.  He was not happy with her decision and angrily, he returned home to England.

Karla Meleg

In the spring of 1993, Karla called me.  She was thinking about a career in nursing, and about moving back to Ontario to pursue her education.  Nick and I were living in Newport News, Virginia, and Nick was in the Navy. Karla had met someone new, a Navy boy named John Harrison, and she was also full of questions about military life as a spouse, and what it was like to live in Virginia.  I cautioned her to be careful and not rush into anything (like I was a good role model ), but Karla brushed my words of advice aside as most young girls in love would probably do.

Karla and my brother Tyler at my wedding, July 1988

The hot Miami summer wore on, and Karla’s English ex caught wind of her relationship with John. He started to call her and to try to win her back, and then started being nasty and leaving threatening messages. He travelled back and forth between England and Florida on more than one occasion, and would sometimes turn up in places where Karla was, surprising her. Karla was concerned enough that she contacted the police about him stalking her.

Sauble Beach, Ontario

Near Thanksgiving weekend that year, he called her again, and this time left her a message on her answering machine that he was going to track her down and run her over.  He also talked to her friend in Florida, saying he was going to be in town that weekend.  Whether Karla heard this or not, I don’t know, but she left that Wednesday night for her boyfriend’s house on her bike and spent a long happy weekend with him.

Karla in grade school

Early Monday morning, on November 29, 1993, by 6am, Karla was up and back on her bike and headed home so that she could start work.  She was biking on Military Trail with her headset on listening to loud music as she usually did, oblivious to the world around her.   As she passed by Lynn University, a vehicle came up behind her and plowed directly into her, knocking her off her bike and onto the road. The police later said they thought the vehicle stopped, backed up over her, and then shifted gears again and went forward and roared off, leaving Karla on the road in the dark to die alone.  A short time later a motorist found her, but it was too late.

Saskatchewan Prairie Roads, Ethan Meleg

Devastated and with sad and heavy hearts, we said our good-byes to our forever young, beautiful 23 year old Karla. “Karla, Karla, Karla,” Pauline used to always say with a sigh, half amused and half exasperated as her granddaughter Karla was growing up. She repeated this over and over in the next few days, but this time out of grief.   My Aunt Lily read a poem about Karla that she had written, and I remember just a few strands of it – about lying in bed and Karla coming in to lay beside her in the morning, the sun streaming through the window, and Karla’s mass of golden locks lying on the pillow beside her.   It was achingly beautiful, and there was not a dry eye in the room. I don’t know how my aunt managed to get through reading it without her voice breaking.

Virginia Opossum, by Ethan Meleg

As we stumbled through the following days, and then weeks and months, we all believed this was a terrible case of a hit and run, possibly involving two cars, and that the police would solve it. But the months stretched into years, and there was no resolution, despite repeated contacts with the police.  Several years later, my brother Tyler attempted to look into it through his connections with the FBI.  Through this, we discovered the details of the phone call from her English boyfriend, and the conversation with her friend. Flight records indicated that he had indeed flown in and out of Miami around that time, and his old boss said that he had borrowed his truck that weekend, bringing it back damaged.  And someone had reported that a person of the same name had been in the airport, and his name had been paged as he was late for his flight back home. Much of this had been in the police records, and they had not shared any of this with our family.

Sword-billed Hummingbird, Ethan Meleg

Interpol was contacted, but the ex could not be found. He had a criminal record of some sort, and in the early days of the Internet I spent many fruitless hours going through British websites trying to locate him.  But the case fell through the cracks; she was a Canadian girl in the US working illegally, killed by a British subject who was no longer in the country. Three countries, and no one was willing to take the lead in the investigation.  I later learned through local Miami newspaper articles that the police had been suppressing crimes like this for years, often portraying them as accidents, in an effort to minimize the amount of crime in the area for publicity reasons.  Karla’s murder was just one of the crimes covered up in an effort to glamorize Boca Raton as a safe place for the elite to live.

Indian Head Cove, Bruce Peninsula

In the 17 years since her death, my Aunt Lily and cousin Ethan have come to somewhat of a reluctant acceptance of Karla’s death, and they prefer to remember the goodness in her living rather than the pain of her death.  For Ethan, Karla’s death was a wake up call to make each day count, and that he only had himself to thank or blame for his accomplishments.  Today Ethan is a popular and internationally known birder and an awesome nature photographer.

Ethan Meleg, Karla's brother

Every year, a tree is planted in a small grove at the Hillman Marsh Conservation Area, a living reminder of the beauty of Karla’s life. There is no ongoing investigation, and there will be no justice served for Karla.  As you grow older, unfortunately you learn that life is at times unjust, and that the bad guys sometimes win.

Karla Meleg

Happy Birthday, Karla.  Miss you, kiddo.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. clatterbach permalink
    March 22, 2010 5:06 pm

    That’s an incredibly sad story! You’re right, sometimes the bad guys win, and there’s invariably more crimes hidden by the police for political and bureauratic reasons than we’ll ever guess. Still, if we can do anything it’s to be determined to not let it take everything from our own lives as it threatens to do, and Ethan has obviously done some amazing work. Those photos are beautiful!

  2. Ethan Meleg permalink
    March 22, 2010 9:04 pm

    I’m crying out loud reading this Tonya… it sure makes me remember the good times with Karla and the positive influence she had on my life. Thanks for taking the time to write this… it’s a great tribute to her!
    with love,

    • March 22, 2010 9:48 pm

      Ethan, I cried while writing it. I worried about how you might feel when you read it, and I am so glad it made you remember good things. Thank you for letting me know.



  3. Daniela permalink
    March 23, 2010 4:04 am

    Smutní životný osud. Sad, sad, story,Life is Short Enjoy your self

  4. Tyler permalink
    March 27, 2010 7:49 pm

    Thank you Tonya for remembering Karla on her birthday.I still believe that we will find out what happened .Tyler

  5. March 29, 2010 9:51 am

    Thanks for this. I’m a friend of Ethan’s and you’ve brought back many good memories of Karla (not without tears, though). Karla was like the big sister I never had – I used to love hanging out and chatting while she got ready to go out with her friends (as she often did — what a popular social butterfly!) and borrowing her clothes and envying that gorgeous flowing hair and… She had such a joy for life! She is greatly missed and often remembered with smiles.

    • March 29, 2010 10:14 am

      Hi JJ, although I don’t recall meeting you, I sure have heard a lot about you over the years, and all good. Thank you for writing, and I am glad Karla’s memory is kept alive by so many. Tonya

  6. abu jose permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:23 am

    I had never heard of karla until i read this,her short but beautiful life taught me beauty of life.may her soul rest in peace.

    • June 2, 2010 4:13 pm

      Karla taught many of us at a young age how to take each day as it comes, and to live in the moment. We owe her a great debt.

  7. Sue permalink
    June 25, 2010 2:14 pm

    My name is Sue, my brother dated Karla for some time. We went to concerts together & hung out all the time. My husband & I remember Karla for her smile & kindness. One year at Christmas time she made everyone a homemade wreath, they were all so beautiful. We hang our wreath from Karla up every Christmas & think of her often. It is hard to believe that it has been 17 years already. I remember Karla like it was yesterday, last time I saw her it was at a Cheap Trick concert on New Year’s Eve, she was in a beautiful gown & sitting on someone’s shoulders singing along with the music. I had the opportunity of seeing the scrap book she made for my brother, she was truly a beautiful person inside & out. May God bless her, her family & her memory. I miss you Karla. I hope justice will prevail in this tragedy, I pray for it.

    • June 27, 2010 1:50 pm

      Hi Sue, I had dinner with Ethan and Lily last night, and told them about your note: they really appreciated it. What is your brother’s first name? Thank you for your kind thought, and I hope justice finally prevails too. Tonya

      • Craig Clinton permalink
        August 8, 2011 2:13 pm


        I stumbled upon this article while searching for a Kingsville phone number and wanted to say i cant believe how time goes by. I too call Karla and Ethan my cousins from the Meleg side as my mom is the sister of Carlos. We looked up to Karla and Ethan, fascinated with them being the older cousins when we were in Ontario for Summers…Long gone but never forgotten!

      • August 8, 2011 2:19 pm

        Hi there, I am sure we must have met at some point. Thanks for writing and you are absolutely right – never forgotten. Fondly, Tonya.

  8. Sue permalink
    July 8, 2010 4:35 pm

    Hi Tonya,
    My brother’s name is Frank, I spoke with him the other day about your site & he wanted me to send it over to him. We shared a bunch of fun memories on the phone about Karla when I called him. I told him that I was sitting in front of my computer at work and it was like Karla was talking to me or giving me a nudge or something. All of the sudden I got goose bumps & started thinking of her in a big way. I immediately googled her & came across your site. I have the picture of her holding a gingerale can on my computer background now. There must be a reason for her to come to me so strongly, I now feel that I have another angel up in heaven. My dad really loved Karla too, he passed away in 1994 @ age 58. They are both missed.

  9. November 24, 2010 5:23 pm

    Even that I have nearly same story in my family – I can not agree with this situation! So beautiful girl, so nice face, and so sad end!

    Like my parents that lost son (my brother), I never agree to sit and cry about “sad fate”!

    I can not understand, not to “turn up earth” and take this bastard to the justice! Probably because I’m still Yugoslavian, probably because I’m educated in other way, probably that I have also Montenegrin, Serbian, Slovakian gene – I can not sit in silence.

    It made me cry just to read, that in the West, politician and local gov’t have same way to cover up situation, like in East? With all connection, justice, power – to left this guy to enjoy life in England?

    Just look at her face and positive energy that come from her soul!

    • November 24, 2010 8:11 pm

      I understand how you feel and I feel that too sometimes. But feeling that way and bringing him to justice won’t bring her back to us.

      Karla was light and goodness and happiness. It was great to be around her – she was full of life.

  10. Sue permalink
    November 25, 2010 1:43 pm

    Hello Again,
    We are hanging up Karla’s wreath tonight, our home will be blessed throughout with her presence.


  11. Greg permalink
    May 30, 2011 1:09 pm

    I went to grade school with Karla in Kingsville, Ontario, and I have so many fond memories of our times together as kids. I remember she was the first girl that I held hands with as we watched “Old Yeller” in the gymnasium at KPS back in Grade 3 or 4. Growing up we were fond of each other and we would always tease each other at school, with an occasional kiss on the cheek when nobody was looking. I moved to Ottawa with my parents in 1985, but Karla and I kept in touch through writing occasional letters and talking on the telephone just a few times. We kind of lost touch around 1990 but I always kept her in my heart and mind, as I do today. She was such a kind, caring, and beautiful person. I miss you, Karla.

  12. Alexis permalink
    August 8, 2011 2:25 pm

    My brother Craig sent this just today to our family and it makes me happy and sad to read it. So happy that my cousin Karla is still remembered even after all this time, and sad we don’t have her here with us.
    My brother said it best, she was our older cousin and was SO cool…and beautiful and did I mention SO cool. I loved being near her and always felt special when I was with her…she was always someone I admired and looked up to! Miss you always! Alexis xoxoxox

    • August 8, 2011 3:58 pm

      Hi Alexis, it always makes me feel good to hear from people who remember and loved Karla. Wishing the best for you and your family,.Tonya.

  13. Joel Phelps permalink
    February 20, 2012 7:05 pm

    Karla was a wonderful girl and I still grieve of her death and the injustice that her family have to suffer with.
    Karla used to see my now brother in law Frank Cantin sometime around 1991.
    We used to go to concerts, I recall vividly the last time I saw Karla was on new years eve of 1991 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn Michigan where we all there to see one of our favourite bands “Cheap Trick”. Karla was right up in the front having a great time.
    It’s so true of how she had smiling eyes and her out going, friendly personality. I’m so glad the last time we saw each other she was so happy!
    Every Christmas, my now wife and I hang awreath that Karla gave us and say a prayer.
    Karla you don’t know how much we miss you!
    Sleep well…. we will meet again.

    • February 28, 2012 2:48 pm

      Hi Joel, thank you so much for writing and sharing your memories of Karla. I am thrilled that the memory of her has not been forgotten, and want you to know that her family greatly appreciates hearing from people who remember Karla.


  14. Mick Chambers permalink
    May 12, 2012 9:59 pm

    Was thinking about Karla today. This is a beautiful homage and fitting for a her, I knew her well. I will never forget.
    Mike Chambers

    • May 22, 2012 9:05 pm

      Mike, you are fondly remembered by her family too. Thank you for posting and remembering Karla.


  15. Jan permalink
    January 24, 2014 8:25 pm

    This shocks me, as Kingsville is such an innocent little town, a great place for a kid to grow up in. Your Karla was really a beautiful girl, and losing her must have been such a blow to your family. I found your story while trying to trace a friend who you may have met in Canada when he was there: Dr; Juan Carlos Movrin Meleg, of Buenos Aires. I met him in Windsor at St Clair College while he was studying English, and he was thrilled to make contact with his cousins in Kingsville: This was in the 1970s, when you must have been fairly young. Do you know if anyone in your family kept in touch with him and would know how to contact him? I am so sorry to intrude on your grief, but if it led to finding my friend, I would be so pleased! Jan

  16. Anna permalink
    February 10, 2014 12:12 am

    I recently came acoss this. I didn’t know Karla personally but went to the same high school as her. I do remember seeing her with that amazing smile on her face. I pray that justice for Karla will one day prevail.

  17. October 7, 2014 7:16 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I worked with Lily at Point Pelee 1975-77 and later as colleagues at different parks. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child. Love you Lily. Norm


  1. Inspiration… In memory of my sister Karla

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