Staff Sgt. Melissa Boyes died April 6. Her husband, Tech. Sgt. Jarom Boyes, initially told police his wife had committed suicide after an argument. (Photo courtesy of family)
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Staff Sgt. Melissa Boyes often told her mom she was her hero.
Martha Ferguson always had the same response for her eldest child: “You are mine.”
“She was much more than I’ve ever been.”
Just how far Melissa Boyes might have gone will never be known. Boyes was shot to death April 6 in her North Las Vegas home near Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. She was 24.
Her husband, 41-year-old Tech. Sgt. Jarom Boyes, told police she killed herself during an argument. Ferguson said she never believed his version of events, and neither did anyone who knew her.
On May 14, police charged the technical sergeant with first-degree murder.
Boyes grew up in the tiny town of Camden, Tenn., about 100 miles west of Nashville. A nagging fear of failure seemed to push her to do her best at everything. She would try anything once. In high school, she played the clarinet, made excellent grades and graduated near the top of her class in 2007.
Ferguson didn’t have the money to send Boyes to college. “I told her your best hope is joining the Air Force.”
It was a way out of Camden, a way to make something of herself.
“Ever since she was 16, she was excited about joining. She couldn’t wait,” Ferguson said.
Boyes enlisted three weeks after high school graduation. “She loved the Air Force. She absolutely loved it,” her mother said.
She would have celebrated six years of service this month and wanted to re-enlist for four more.
Jarom and Melissa Boyes met while stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea, where he was the noncommissioned officer in charge of biomedical equipment repair for the 51st Medical Support Squadron.
Jarom Boyes enlisted in 1996 and had spent most of his career serving in medical squadrons.
The couple married in a private ceremony in February 2009 in South Korea, Ferguson said. Jarom Boyes promised his bride a wedding with family and friends in attendance, and they had a second ceremony in Tennessee on July 4 of that year.
The Boyeses arrived at Nellis in May 2011. She was assigned to the 99th Medical Support Squadron, where she was a pharmacy technician, shift leader and lead trainer. Jarom Boyes was the noncommissioned officer in charge of medical maintenance in the same squadron.
The couple purchased a new home in a fledgling subdivision near Nellis, according to public records.
Melissa Boyes was on her way to getting the college education she’d always wanted, her mom said. She’d earned her associate degree and was working toward a bachelor’s; she started new classes just before she died.
When Melissa Boyes first joined the Air Force, she wanted to be a police officer. An aptitude test revealed her strengths included electronics, but she chose to work in the pharmacy.
A commendation medal awarded after Melissa Boyes’ death said she’d improved compliance, averted excess costs of $8,000, fixed nine deficiencies and reduced wait time by more than half.
“She was successful in everything she did and always put forth all her best effort, regardless of what it was,” her younger sister, Miranda Roberts, said in an email.
“She always felt like she wasn’t good enough. She always overachieved,” their mom said.
Melissa Boyes hadn’t given up on law enforcement work. She was considering a degree in forensic science in the hopes she would put it to use if she ever left the Air Force, Ferguson said.
“There’s no telling what she could have accomplished.”
The day before she died, she told her mom she’d grown accustomed to military life. The Air Force seemed to her like an extended family.
“She told me she was going to join for four more years,” Ferguson said. “She loved what she did. She was proud of her country and proud to serve.”
Melissa Boyes was looking forward to having a family of her own. “Her career was going good and she was ready to have a child. That’s where she was in her life,” her mom said.
In high school, Melissa Boyes babysat her mom’s friends’ children.
“They always said she was the best babysitter they ever had,” Ferguson said. “She would have been an awesome mother.”
Changing his story
Ferguson learned of her daughter’s death from the man now accused of killing her.
Jarom Boyes told his mother-in-law the couple had gotten into a fight, but that it wasn’t a big deal, Ferguson said. He said Melissa Boyes had gone into the bedroom and shot herself in the chest.
“I’m glad it’s out — the fact he tried to say my daughter killed herself, when I knew the whole time it wasn’t true,” she said. But “nothing can bring her back. I wish I could bring her back.”
Jarom Boyes recounted a similar story to police, according to a declaration of arrest from the North Las Vegas Police Department: The Boyeses were at a bar with friends when they began arguing. They went home, and things settled down. Melissa Boyes went into the master bathroom; a short time later, he heard a gunshot.
Jarom Boyes said he found his wife laying on the floor with a gunshot wound. He called 911 and began CPR.
She was dead by the time medics arrived.
Jarom Boyes “was crying without any tears. At times, he would start chuckling as he was crying,” according to the arrest report.
“Evidence suggested [Melissa Boyes] died under suspicious circumstances and detectives continued investigating her death as a homicide,” a police news release said.
On May 14, Jarom Boyes consented to a polygraph test. The FBI agent who administered it said he had failed, and “was using countermeasures to beat the test,” the arrest report said.
In an interview that followed, he gave several accounts of what happened that night: Melissa Boyes shot herself while he was in another room; she pointed the gun at him; she’d shot herself when he grabbed her on the shoulders; they had struggled over the gun.
“Jarom ultimately said he got into a fight with Melissa at the bar over him driving her car,” and that it had continued when they went home, according to the arrest document. He put his wife in a headlock and pushed her into a wall, leaving a foot-wide hole in the wall.
Melissa Boyes ran into the bedroom and locked the door, the document said. “Jarom went after her.”
Five minutes before the 911 call, Melissa Boyes called a friend and begged for help. It was 11:25 p.m. “I think he’s going to beat the [expletive] out of me,” she said into the phone.
In the bathroom, Melissa Boyes armed herself with a 9mm handgun.
In his final version of events, Jarom Boyes said his wife opened the door and he walked toward her. She pointed the gun at him. He grabbed the weapon, turned it on her and shot her once.
By the time her friend arrived, police were on the scene and Melissa Boyes was dead.
Ferguson got the call several hours later.
Melissa Boyes was high-spirited, her mother said. Ferguson could imagine her daughter defending herself. She could not fathom her taking her own life.
“She was an aggressor. She never self-pitied. She would get mad at someone else and take it out on them,” Ferguson said. “I knew from the minute he called me. I knew she would have never killed herself.”
Jarom Boyes was scheduled to be arraigned May 29. There was no defense attorney listed in court records. He was being held at the Las Vegas Detention Center on a $1 million bond.
Ferguson said she met her son-in-law only a handful of times and didn’t know him very well. She now suspects her daughter was the victim of domestic violence. “I had no clue at all. She never talked about abuse. If she did, I would have told her to get out.”
Ferguson said she knows firsthand what it’s like to be in a violent relationship. “You’re ashamed and embarrassed, and that’s why you don’t admit it to anyone.”
On April 14, Melissa Boyes was buried in her hometown, the place she’d worked so hard to leave. ■