MURRIETA: Autopsy finds woman suffered 11 blows to the head
By JOHN HALL - Staff Writer
MURRIETA ---- There were at least 11 separate blows to the head of a woman found dead inside her Murrieta home, authorities said Tuesday.
A Riverside County coroner's autopsy performed Tuesday revealed that Isabelle Jarka, 40, had injuries all over her head ---- as well as defensive wounds to her arms and hands, Murrieta police Detective Sgt. Jim Ganley said.
The coroner's office has yet to release a cause of death pending the results of further toxicological testing.
Murrieta police detectives have not said how Jarka was killed, why they believe she was killed, or who may be responsible for her death. She was pronounced dead at 9:08 a.m. Monday.
No arrests have been made in connection with the case.
The victim's husband, Kelle Jarka, called 911 at 8:45 a.m. Monday, saying he returned home from a 45-minute shopping trip to find that someone had broken into and ransacked their home and his wife was unconscious in the upstairs master bedroom, police said.
Murrieta police declined Tuesday to release a copy of the 911 call, saying it is still part of their ongoing homicide investigation.
Isabelle Jarka was a devoted mother, wife and member of her church, her sister said Tuesday afternoon.
"She was a really good person; very generous," Laura McGraw said while standing in the street just outside the two-story home on Tamarisk Street where her sister's body was found.
Wearing dark sunglasses, the La Verne resident fought back her emotions as she talked about her younger sister.
"She was a really happy person and very involved in her church," McGraw said.
Jarka was a Jehovah's Witness and had many friends from her church, she said.
Isabelle's parents live across the street from the Jarka home and McGraw was with them Tuesday. The family is taking care of Isabelle's two children, a 12-year-old daughter and a 6-month-old son, she said.
"Everybody's still in a state of shock," McGraw said, including her young niece.
"She cries, then she's fine. Then she cries and she's fine," McGraw said.
Her sister and Kelle Jarka had been married almost 20 years and lived at the Tamarisk Street home for about six years, she said.
McGraw described Kelle Jarka as a "really good husband."
"He'd do anything he could for my sister," McGraw said.
Kelle Jarka returned home late Tuesday afternoon for the first time since his wife's slaying. Prior to that, the home was still considered a crime scene and cordoned off with yellow police tape.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than two dozen adults and children gathered for a vigil in the driveway of the Jarka home, some leaving flowers and candles as well as a stuffed bear holding a balloon.
None of them knew that Kelle Jarka was inside his home as they gathered outside.
Jarka did not come outside until just before 7:30 p.m., after most neighbors had dispersed. Two other men came out with him.
Saying nothing as he left, Jarka, carrying a bag, got into a new white Toyota pickup and one of the other men drove him from the neighborhood.
Before the vigil began, Isabelle Jarka's family across the street also drove away, declining to take part in the gathering.
Earlier in the afternoon, a Murrieta police officer had been posted outside the Jarka home where the garage door stood open.
There had been two sport utility vehicles parked in the Jarka's garage on Monday as detectives investigated the homicide. On Tuesday, both were gone, having been towed away by police.
Inside the garage, there was a dart board on one wall with several large coolers nearby. The back wall was lined with a refrigerator, storage cabinets and about two dozen white plastic chairs stacked from the floor to the ceiling.
The chairs may have been used by the Jarkas for church meetings that neighbor Lorna Tan says were held at the home on Wednesday nights.
Tan, 51, who lives next door, said the Jarkas "seemed to be a very nice family."
Isabelle was always smiling when she saw her, Tan said.
Tan had already left for work about 7:20 a.m. Monday so she wasn't there when Kelle Jarka says the break-in must have happened. But Tan's 14-year-old daughter was still home and says she didn't hear screams or any other noises from next door.
"She was actually just walking to school when the police came driving into the neighbor," Tan said.
The neighbor on the other side of the Jarka home, Maria Giorgianne, 68, said she also heard nothing unusual Monday morning.
She described the Jarkas as "very quiet, very conservative people."
Kristine Scott, 37, lives a few doors away and said the Jarkas seemed to keep to themselves.
"I don't think anyone in the neighborhood even knew she'd been pregnant and had a baby," Scott said of Isabelle and her 6-month-old son.
Scott was one of the neighbors who organized the candlelight vigil for the woman they really didn't know.
"That's part of being a neighborhood, supporting this family in this horrible time," Scott said of the vigil. "Neighbors are a part of our daily lives as we come and go."
"My heart really goes out to those kids," Scott said several hours before the vigil.
Scott described the trauma she saw Isabelle's 12-year-old daughter going through the day her mother was killed.
"When they removed her body from the house, the little girl was across the street in her grandparents' house," Scott said.
"She saw what was happening and started screaming "I wanna go with my mom, I wanna go with my mom!'" Scott recalled. "It was horrible.
"I just don't understand how this could happen. Now, those kids have to live with this for the rest of their lives."
Contact staff writer John Hall at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2628, or [email protected].