Former UC Berkeley Student Fatally Stabbed in San Jose Home

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San Jose Police Department officers found former UC Berkeley student Melanie Dunn fatally stabbed in her San Jose home early last Thursday morning and announced Friday that her boyfriend is a suspect.

Friends described Dunn as a confident, charismatic and charming student activist.

At approximately 5:20 a.m. officers responded to a phone call, which summoned them to the Dunn residence on the 1100 block of Terilyn Avenue after a disturbance was reported. Upon arrival, officers found 27-year-old Dunn fatally wounded.

According to SJPD Public Information Officer Jose Garcia, Dunn was transported to the Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. The suspect, David Jerome Shackelford, 26, fled on foot and was later found and taken into custody a quarter of a mile away. He is currently being held in Santa Clara County jail, with no bail, booked on a charge of homicide.

Dunn, a transfer student from De Anza College in Cupertino, was known among her peers as a frequent student activist, campaigning against statewide budget cuts to higher education.

In addition to her studies at De Anza, Dunn participated in an activist group known as Students For Justice, according to friend and fellow activist Beth Hollingshead.

Hollingshead said the two met and became close after they participated in a 2003 protest march against budget cuts in front of the Capitol building in Sacramento. She added that she and Dunn graduated from De Anza in 2005.

"She had this presence, a great sense of humor, passion," she recalled. "Every time I saw her she always had a smile on her face."

Upon hearing of Dunn's death, Hollingshead wrote a blog entry articulating her reaction to the news.

"This was and is a tragedy," she wrote in the blog. "There was absolutely no sound reason for this beautiful, young and vibrant woman's life to be ended so soon. It makes no sense whatsoever."

After graduating from De Anza, Dunn took time off to become a student trustee, acting as a liaison between the students and the Board of Trustees for the community college, according to friend and fellow Students For Justice participant Ali Rahnoma.

"Throughout her tenure, she educated on behalf of students and raised issues," he said. "A lot of students saw her as playing the role of responsibly representing students in the Board of Trustees."

Kathy Gage, an employee at the UC Berkeley Student Health Insurance Office, knew Dunn through her son, who worked with Dunn at the Clift Hotel's Redwood Room in San Francisco.

Gage said Dunn worked at the hotel for about three years and was well-known and liked by all her co-workers.

"A lot of us who did know her are at a loss because we never imagined that this would happen to Melanie," Rahnoma said. "I never thought of Melanie fitting the profile of someone who would be in a relationship that had domestic violence."


Contact Andrew David King and Jasmine Mausner at [email protected]

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