When police came to an Oro Valley apartment to investigate a domestic dispute last week, they found the nearly lifeless body of a 25-year-old mother of two lying in a bathroom.
At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12, officers arrived at Overlook at Pusch Ridge, 8851 N. Oracle Road, broke in the door of an apartment, and found Paul M. Beam, 35, in the living room with his girlfriend Lisa M. Berrie unconscious nearby.
Berrie died soon after she was taken to University Medical Center.
Police say she was strangled.
Officers arrested Beam on a charge of first-degree murder.
According to police, Beam’s father made a call to 911, perhaps after his son told him of what had happened to Berrie.
The couple has a 2-year-old daughter. Berrie also had a 7-year-old son from a previous relationship. Both children were home when Beam allegedly strangled their mother, according to investigators.
Berrie worked at Starbucks in the Bashas’ grocery store at Tangerine Road and Dove Mountain Boulevard.
People who knew her said Berrie was a devoted mother who stayed involved her kids’ schooling and kept active in their schools and daycare.
“She was always there for her child,” said Kris Hansen, principal of Whitmore Elementary School, where Berrie’s son once attended.
Hansen said Berrie was well known at the school through her volunteer work and because her mother was a long-time kindergarten teacher there.
Before moving to Oro Valley, Berrie worked for five years at the Bashas’ at Swan Road and Camp Lowell Drive in midtown.
Shawn Dorsey worked there with Berrie. The co-workers’ kids went to the same daycare and school.
He said Berrie had an artistic flare and liked to work on the store’s new displays, trying to make them look better once they were installed.
“She was always trying to have fun and make things bright,” Dorsey recalled.
Recently, Berrie participated in a Bashas’ charity walk with her kids.
“She was always getting involved and trying to help,” Dorsey noted.
Beam used to work at the store, too, which was where he likely met Berrie.
For a while he worked in the meat department before moving to the produce section, Dorsey said.
Beam appeared the polar opposite of the outgoing Berrie — quiet, distant and often kept to himself.
Her caring nature could have been what attracted her to Beam, Dorsey speculated.
Berrie’s co-workers at Starbucks said she didn’t speak much about her personal life, but sometimes her frustration with Beam was evident.
Berrie once commented to co-worker Meriam Witt that Beam often was reluctant to pick up the kids from school and daycare on days when she had to work late.
It was clearly a problem for Berrie, but Witt said she never let on that the issues with Beam could have turned violent.
“She never said anything bad about other people,” Witt said.
Beam awaits arraignment on first-degree murder charges. He remains in the Pima County Adult Detention Center on $750,000 bond.