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Manatee woman’s death investigated as homicide

MANATEE — For months, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies searched for Johnathon Holte to arrest him on a domestic violence charge of pulling the hair of his girlfriend and pushing her down. On Friday, they finally found Holte after he called 911 to report the death of the same woman, Malenne Meranvil, who detectives believe is a homicide victim.

Holte has not been charged with Meranvil’s killing, but is being questioned in jail about her death after deputies arrested him on an outstanding traffic warrant.

At 12:30 p.m., Holte, 26, reported finding Meranvil, 21, dead in her home. Deputies found “trauma to the body which indicates foul play,” according to a sheriff’s report. Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow declined to say how she died.

Bristow said Holte called 911 saying he found his girlfriend dead in her home, in the 2500 block of 55th Avenue West. Holte did not live in the home, according to Bristow.

Holte told detectives he had left the home at 1 a.m. and returned a little before noon and found her. There was no sign of forced entry into the house. Holte told detectives he had an argument with Meranvil and had left to spend the night at a relative’s house, Bristow said.

Holte was arrested on a charge of not showing up for court on a driving with a suspended license charge, and detectives also impounded a vehicle Holte said he was driving when he left the home and returned.

“We are talking to him because he was the last person to see her alive and the first person to find her dead,” Bristow said.

Holte has a history of domestic violence against Meranvil, according to sheriff’s reports. In March, deputies responded to Meranvil’s home at the time, in the 700 block of 60th Avenue Terrace West, and she said Holte had pulled her hair and pushed her to the ground.

Holte had already fled the home and Meranvil refused to file a complaint against him, but the case was turned over to a domestic violence investigator with the sheriff’s office.

“We were actively looking for him to make an arrest,” said Bristow.

Domestic violence cases are treated differently in that even if a victim does not want to press charges, deputies can still make an arrest, according to Bristow.

“We still pursue it for reasons we are looking into in this case,” Bristow said.

Holte also has a history of felony arrests in Manatee with six since 2003 and three convictions for robbery, grand theft twice and dealing in stolen property.

Outside Meranvil’s home, police tape closed a block of 55th Avenue West and drew a large crowd as detectives and crime scene technicians processed the home. Several of Meranvil’s family members looked on including her mother, who sat with a sheriff’s victim’s advocate weeping. Family members did not comment on Meranvil’s death.

Neighbors looked on with concern as detectives investigated at the home for hours. An elderly woman who has lived in the neighborhood for decades said Holte was heard to be distraught over Meranvil’s death.

“He was saying, ‘They killed my home girl!’ over and over,” she said.

The neighbor declined to give her name out of fear but lamented over violence breaking out in her neighborhood.

“This used to be a nice neighborhood but has really gone down hill over the years,” she said.

Robert Napper, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7024.