Late Saturday night, Jason Eggert decided to leave a note for the 19-year-old roommate he had found beaten, stabbed and strangled to death just two nights before.
He went to the Facebook page created to remember Samantha “Samy” MacQuilliam and wrote, “I got your bottle of Riesling off the top of the cabinet and put a sun colored rose in it. I’m so sorry, Samy, I wish I could have done something to help you.”
His simple late-night sentiment echoed those of dozens of relatives, professors and friends, some of whom knew about the abuse MacQuilliam had endured but most of whom had no clue.
Although investigators were still processing evidence in the Palm Harbor home Friday, Eggert was allowed to retrieve MacQuilliam’s tail-wagging Valentine.
On Feb. 14, the stray puppy trotted up to the home shared by MacQuilliam and Matthew R. Dieterle, the man who within six months would be charged with her murder.
Police say only that puppy — and MacQuilliam’s killer — were with her during those last violent hours of her life. A day later, the still-stunned roommate who discovered the grisly scene returned to get the dog Samy had named “Pretty Girl.”
“She is the sweetest dog in the world,” Eggert said. “I got her at 6 a.m. Friday while the forensics were there, and she was so scared.”
Afterward, Eggert left MacQuilliam another note: “I went back to the house today to start moving everything out. We packed all your clothes up, and I got Pretty Girl. She’s ok, and I’m gunna keep her. She’s got an appointment to see the vet on Monday . . . She’s gunna be taken care of.”
The Minaret is collecting donations of money and supplies to help care for the dog, now one year old. They can be dropped off or mailed to the Student Activities Office (Vaughn 215 Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Even looking back, MacQuilliam’s professors said they had no signs she was being abused.
“I have been racking my brain trying to think of any clues, any signs,” said professor Anne Stockdell-Giesler, whose Virginia hometown is near the couple’s. “She was one of those students who is a pleasure to have in class because she seemed to take her academics very seriously. Plus, she was just plain likeable I was shocked that it was her, of all students.”
Jay O’Sullivan, who teaches the anatomy course MacQuilliam was taking when she died, was equally shocked.
“She was as sweet and pleasant a person as one could hope to meet. Even when mentioning an ongoing sinus infection, she did it with a smile,” he said. “If she was having problems in her personal life, I couldn’t tell. Samantha MacQuilliam was a beautiful, calm, positive human being.”
Classmates in her study group say they will finish her remaining assignments so that MacQuilliam can still get the course credit they say she deserves.
A judge denied bond Sunday for the 23-year-old Dieterle, who was charged with first-degree murder.
The murder permanently ended what friends said had been a turbulent on-again, off-again relationship that had lasted through the man’s June arrest and unreported domestic abuse. On Saturday, details emerged about the final minutes of the nursing student’s young life.
Dieterle’s bloody palm print was found in the bathroom near his girlfriend’s body, police said. Wearing jeans and a bra, MacQuilliam had suffered “blunt and sharp trauma” to her head and upper body, including numerous stab wounds, the medical examiner reported.
MacQuilliam, who was finishing summer classes at UT and who had wanted to become a pediatric nurse, was killed Wednesday in the off-campus home she and Dieterle shared with two other men.
Although police say she was killed sometime Wednesday, it was not until after 9 p.m. Thursday that the couple’s two roommates, Kyle P. Bennett and Jason R. Eggert, found MacQuilliam’s beaten, stabbed, and strangled body in the master bathtub of their Palm Harbor home.
Dieterle, who is not a UT student, was not present. Pinellas officials said Dieterle had driven to Maryland, but he was arrested just after midnight Saturday at Tampa International Airport as he and his mother stepped off a Southwest Airlines Flight from Baltimore.
Officers said he was taken by surprise, and it was unclear whether he and his mother had returned to Tampa to turn himself in.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office detectives have interviewed the two roommates, who were never suspects, but Dieterle refused to talk and has asked for a lawyer. He is being held in the Orient Road Jail in Tampa
THE CRIME SCENE FRIDAY
Around 5 a.m. Friday, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s homicide unit entered the home the four rented at 2820 Wendover Terrace. Investigators spent the day processing the home and the body.
Detectives said there was a violent struggle in the bathroom, and bloody towels indicated that Dieterle had tried to clean up the crime scene before fleeing to Maryland. Crime Scene Investigators lifted a bloody palm print from the rim of the tub, and latent examiners identified it as Dieterle’s.
MacQuilliam’s body was removed from the home for a Friday afternoon autopsy. Police said the full results would not be released for some time.
Tampa news stations reported that crime scene investigators had returned to the home Friday night and were expected to continue processing the scene through the night.
Friends and acquaintances said Dieterle and MacQuilliam moved to Florida together from their home state of Maryland so MacQuilliam could begin the nursing program last fall. MacQuilliam also reportedly worked at Varsity Club, a Pinellas restaurant.
The couple had broken up at least once this summer, and friends said Dieterle had a history of abusing MacQuilliam.
Nicole Bissett, who would have been MacQuilliam’s roommate in the fall, told ABC News that Dieterle was “infatuated” and “a psycho.”
“He was very possessive of her,” she said, adding that she thought Dieterle would rather see her dead than with another man.
Dieterle was arrested June 20 on four charges comprising two marijuana and paraphernalia charges and one charge each of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer and obstruction. He was released within 12 hours. According to jail records, bond assessments totaled $21,000, but it was unclear whether he bonded out or was simply released.
Neighbor John Lasser told reporters the couple broke up after the arrest but were soon back together. “They had been planning a trip back to Maryland together,” Lasser said.
A UT acquaintance said Dieterle had beaten MacQuilliam in the couple’s South Tampa home in recent months and that she had moved out. Apparently the estranged couple reconciled and moved into the Palm Harbor home. They later broke up and reconciled again.
The acquaintance, who says he too was threatened by Dieterle, said friends and MacQuilliam’s family encouraged her to stay away from Dieterle. MacQuilliam’s cousin and best friend declined to comment about Dieterle or the couple.
DREAMED OF HELPING CHILDREN
MacQuilliam, a nursing student interested in pediatrics, would have begun her sophomore year this month. Known as “Sam” or “Samy,” she was a native of Gambrills, Md., a suburb between Baltimore and Washington, D.C
A coworker said MacQuilliam’s passion for children was evident at the Maryland preschool where they worked.
“She loved those kids so much, and she was so good at what she did,” Erica Care said. “I admired her from a lot of perspectives. She was always willing to do anything and everything for anyone.” MacQuilliam’s cousin said it was while working at the Maryland daycare center that MacQuilliam decided to become a pediatric nurse.
“She and I always talked about being nurses together,” Ashley Marie Maxwell said. The cousins, w
ho were more like best friends, had hoped to one day own their own practice.
Maxwell said that as a child MacQuilliam loved dancing and kickboxing. She is survived by two brothers, one who is 3 and the other who is in the ninth grade.
MacQuilliam turned her love of children into a babysitting job in her Palm Harbor neighborhood, where she could often be seen walking the baby.
Upset neighbors in their “quiet and safe neighborhood” told news reporters that MacQuilliam was very sweet.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS REACT
UT President Ronald L. Vaughn sent a global E-mail Friday afternoon that alerted students of her death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Samantha’s family and friends,” he wrote.
Also Friday afternoon, MacQuilliam’s cousin started a Facebook Group in her honor.
“Sam was an amazing and talented person. We were cousins, but we were very close, like best friends. She was my idol and even though we were only 5 months apart, I looked up to her as my role model, and she was the first person I would ask when I needed advice,” said Maxwell. “She was a gorgeous and lively young women and will be missed by many.”
Bissett, who was set to be MacQuilliam’s fall roommate, told reporters, “It’s going to be hard to go back and for her not to be there.”
Friends can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to share stories about the young woman’s life to be used in a follow-up story
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Click Here for more information regarding Matthew R. Dieterle’s criminal record.