Melanie Conroy
Melanie Conroy. Photo credit: Dignity Memorial

A convicted sex offender accused of killing a Riverside County woman and leaving her body in a car in Vista was charged Friday with murder and auto theft.

Michael Lee Lorence, 46, was arrested last week following a Hemet Police Department investigation into the death of Melanie Conroy, 47.

Lorence made his initial court appearance Friday before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Singerton, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for Sept. 2 at the Banning Justice Center.

The judge also ordered the defendant held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta,

According to Hemet police Lt. Michael Mouat, Conroy was reported missing on July 27 from her residence in the 900 block of Mellisa Drive.

Mouat said that within a day of her family filing the missing person report, they uncovered “evidence suggesting Melanie’s disappearance was not voluntary.”

Homicide detectives took over the investigation, and two days later they located the victim’s car in the parking lot of a Vista Park & Ride.

The lieutenant said that Conroy’s body had been stuffed in the trunk.

Detectives, for undisclosed reasons, identified Lorence as the alleged perpetrator and learned that the convicted felon had already been locked up at a detention center in San Diego County due to an unrelated fugitive warrant.

Authorities arrested Lorence on Aug. 12. He was transferred the San Diego County lockup to Riverside County Wednesday.

Investigators did not specify the relationship, if any, between the victim and Lorence.

According to court records, he has prior convictions for unspecified sex offenses in another jurisdiction. He also has convictions in Riverside County for vehicle theft, failing to register as a sex offender and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

– City News Service