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'She's going to be really missed'

1006838854 Neighbor.JPG
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneKelli Lawson talks about the stench smell coming across the street from her Central Point home.

Kelli Lawson will remember her neighbor Robin Meinhart — especially her tomatoes.

From the time the women met, Meinhart would give Lawson fresh homegrown tomatoes — vibrantly colored and bursting with sweetness.

“She would just bring them over here by the bagful,” Lawson said. “She was really good at gardening and told me she would teach me how to make a nice garden.”

So consistent was Meinhart with her trips across the worn pavement of New Ray Road in Central Point to Lawson’s home that when she didn’t appear for a few days, Lawson noticed almost immediately.

“It wasn’t like her to not come,” she said. “It wasn’t like her to just be in her house, and not come out.”

It was another week before Meinhart’s neighbors learned the sinister reason for her absence. The 68-year-old mother was dead, shot along with two pets by her 44-year-old son, who had owned the home they shared. Shayne Justin Cleaveland then turned the gun on himself, said the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Their bodies were discovered Labor Day.

As the local community reacted to the horror rippling out of the neighborhood, Lawson wanted to communicate that Meinhart was more than a victim vaguely referred to in news alerts. Lawson felt that Meinhart should be remembered for what she did in life.

“She was a beautiful person who just wanted to take care of us,” she said. “She’s going to be really missed.”

Meinhart came over immediately to ask Lawson about her Aug. 22 ultrasound for her third expected child. Meinhart said she would bring Lawson cantaloupe from her garden in the next couple of days.

Lawson described the quiet neighborhood off Beall Street as the tightest-knit community she has ever lived in.

Somehow, she said, none of the neighbors heard the shots Cleaveland fired. What they noticed were the cars lingering in the driveway while all was silent at the house for days.

Lawson last saw Cleaveland Aug. 25, a few days after she last saw Meinhart, she said. After that, she and her husband began knocking on the door daily.

Later, notices to vacate were left on the doors of two neighboring residences— the cottage where Meinhart slept and the mobile home that Cleaveland occupied.

Court records show the property had been under foreclosure since 2017. In February, a bank trust purchased the pair’s home at auction, according to a record from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Lawson said she and her husband read the notices — which told the occupants to vacate the property by Friday, Aug. 30 — while knocking on the door looking for Meinhart.

Those notices were one reason why a sheriff’s deputy who responded to the Lawsons’ first call for a welfare check Aug. 29 left without entering the residences.

“The deputy concluded at that point that it was possible the residents weren’t answering intentionally because of that prospect, which we do see occasionally,” said Sgt. Julie Denney, public information officer for the sheriff’s office. “Every case is different.”

On Labor Day, they called law enforcement again. Flies were visible in the windows, she said, and a bad smell had become noticeable.

Later, she said, “I saw them take out the bodies, and I knew that was it.”

Cleaveland, who left a note after killing the rest of his household, was reserved and not particularly responsive to waves or conversation, Lawson said. Meinhart didn’t often talk to her about her son, she said.

Neither Meinhart nor Cleaveland had a criminal record in Oregon beyond a basic traffic violation apiece.

“We all talk about, is there something we could have done sooner?” Lawson said. “I wish that their family and loved ones had found out sooner. I wish it wasn’t drawn out as long as it was.”

In addition to increasing awareness of mental health resources, Meinhart and Cleaveland’s story can serve as a reminder to neighbors to look out for each other and not to be timid when calling for welfare checks, Lawson said.

“Keep an eye out,” she said. “Keep an eye out for weird red flags.”

Jackson County Mental Health offers confidential in-person and remote crisis help. The department staffs a 24-hour help line at 541-774-8201. Walk-in mental health services are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the county’s mental health building, 140 S. Holly St., Medford.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and the Veterans and Military Crisis Lines are at 1-800-273-8255, ext. 1. People can text the crisis line at 741-741.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.