Roommate recalls Memorial Day slaying

FOUR YEARS LATER



SCARRED—Vini Oliveira and Chad O’Melia had shared an apartment for several months before O’Melia was stabbed to death in 2018. Oliveira was upstairs at the time but came down while the killer was still in the act. Acorn file photo

SCARRED—Vini Oliveira and Chad O’Melia had shared an apartment at Casa de Oaks for several months before O’Melia was stabbed to death in 2018. Oliveira was upstairs at the time but came down while the killer was still in the act. Acorn file photo

Flashbacks hit Vini Oliveira every day, he says.

Four years ago last week, he lost his close friend and roommate in the worst possible way. Chad O’Melia, 26, was brutally stabbed to death in his Thousand Oaks condo—and Oliveira walked in on the crime while it was happening.

“This might sound weird, but every time I see a knife, I see it again in my mind,” Oliveira said. “Chad had so many plans and goals, and instead of getting to go after them he was stabbed 108 times, and I can’t get that out of my head.”

The woman accused of killing O’Melia remains free awaiting trial. In court May 25, three days shy of the fourth anniversary of O’Melia’s death, Bryn Spejcher and her legal team received another continuance. There have been more than 20 such delays since court proceedings began in June 2018, court records show.

Oliveira called the delays excruciating.  

“It’s not something I’ll forget ever,” he said, “but I want to at least have it behind me.”

Friends, roommates

Oliveira was sharing a three-bedroom Casa de Oaks home off Thousand Oaks Boulevard with the condo’s owner when O’Melia, who knew the owner, moved in. Oliveira and O’Melia became fast friends.

Oliveira said he remembers when O’Melia began talking about Spejcher, whom he met at a local dog park in early 2018. At the time, O’Melia was working for an accounting firm in Camarillo, and Spejcher, then 27, was working as an audiologist for UCLA Health in Thousand Oaks.

“He came to me and told me, ‘I met this girl and she’s amazing. You’ve got to meet her,’ and was all the time talking about her,” Oliveira said. “I think one time I told him, ‘Hey, Chad, don’t you think it’s moving fast?’”

Though others have implied O’Melia and Spejcher were romantically involved, Spejcher’s mother, Laurie Pearce, said it was just a friendship.

“There was no romantic interest,” Pearce said in an interview. “She just wanted to be friends, but maybe Chad wanted to force the issue. Maybe he attacked her.”

Pearce said that is what she believes.

“I think she’s a hero,” Pearce said of her daughter. “I think she defended herself and potentially stopped this from happening to others.”

Bryn Spejcher in court with her attorney in 2018. Acorn file photo

May 28 recollection

According to Oliveira, Spejcher and O’Melia were hanging out at Case de Oaks the night of May 28, 2018, Memorial Day, when Oliveira arrived home from work around 10:30 p.m.

After going upstairs to take a shower, Oliveira lay down in bed and began to play on his phone. That’s when he began hearing noises from downstairs and someone saying “get off me.”

“I thought it was just a normal night,” Oliveira said. “I thought they were just playing around.”

But when he began hearing things break he decided to see what was going on. At the top of the stairs he noticed something unusual.

“First thing I see is both (O’Melia’s and Spejcher’s) dogs together in . . . the landing area,” he said. “They looked really scared.”

When he proceeded down the stairs, Oliveira saw that furniture was toppled, the couch was flipped over and covered with blood, and O’Melia was severely wounded, Oliveira said.

“There was a hole where his heart is with blood everywhere,” Oliveira said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Vini, Vini, please help me. She stabbed me.”

Meanwhile, Spejcher, Oliveira recalled, looked at him with what he described as a blank stare. She was still holding the knife, he said.

“I said, ‘Bryn, what the (expletive) are you doing? Bryn, what’s going on?’” Oliveira said.

A view of the second-floor patio attached to the condo where Chad O’Melia was found stabbed to death four years ago. Acorn file photo

Oliveira said he ran back to his room to grab his cellphone and call 911, which he did as he ran back downstairs.

“In my head, the only chance I had at saving Chad was to call the police,” he said. “I feared for his life, and my life too.”

By the time Oliveira ran past the couple to an open door, he said, O’Melia had fallen to the ground but Spejcher was still stabbing him. Once he got outside the condo, Oliveira began to scream for help and cry before he went into what he described as a state of shock.

After that, he doesn’t know what happened inside the condo, though after police arrived minutes later he did hear their stun guns go off a few times, he said.

Defense response

Spejcher’s attorneys, Robert Schwartz and Michael Goldstein, said their client has no criminal history and was triggered by whatever was in a bong offered to her by O’Melia. Test results found no drugs present in Spejcher’s system beyond THC, experts testified at a 2019 preliminary hearing. Her team says it’s possible there was more than what was or could be tested for.

“It came back positive for THC but it remains unclear if there were any other substances,” Schwartz said.

He said Oliveira told officers he also had a strange reaction after using the same bong. The Acorn was unable to confirm that information by press time.

At the hospital, Spejcher, who also stabbed her dog and herself during the incident, told detectives she did not instigate her second bong hit, Schwartz said.

In one note, she wrote while still intubated, “He forced me to take the second hit. I didn’t want to,” her attorney said.

Schwartz said the drug caused Spejcher to experience extreme hallucinations, including one that led her to believe she was dying and the only way for her to survive was to stab O’Melia.

“She doesn’t have any memory of stabbing Chad or stabbing herself,” Schwartz said.

Trying to move on

In the time since O’Melia’s death, life has been difficult for Oliveira, who immigrated to the U.S from Brazil. Not only is he coping with the loss of a close friend, he has post-traumatic stress disorder and has lost his home and his job, he said. He also fears running into Spejcher to the point that he has decided not to return to Thousand Oaks.

Meanwhile, Spejcher remains strong, her mother said.

“I’m in awe of her,” Pearce said. “She’s a fighter when things are going wrong.”

Asked about the latest continuance, prosecutor Lisa Okinaka Lyytikainen said the defense is waiting on a report from one of their experts.

“Until they get their reports, we . . . won’t be able to move forward,” the deputy district attorney said.

The next pretrial hearing is set for 9 a.m. June 28.

Both sides said they’re targeting September for a trial.

If convicted, Spejcher, who remains free on $510,000 bond, is facing the possibility of life in prison.