Family, friends and fellow students this week are mourning the death of Owen Melin, a 22-year-old student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg who, police said, was killed during a home invasion last Wednesday near campus.
Melin was a psychology major who had transferred to the university last fall after earning an associate degree from St. Petersburg College. His friends described him as a gym buff and a kind person interested in spirituality.
USF St. Petersburg regional chancellor Martin Tadlock sent an email to the USF community expressing his condolences.
“His father said he fell in love with USF St. Petersburg during orientation and greatly enjoyed being a member of the campus community,” the email said. “Our deepest sympathies are with Owen’s family and friends, and we wish them strength as they cope with this tremendous loss.”
Matthew Lee, who attended St. Petersburg’s Meadowlawn Middle School with Melin, said he remembers the first time he met him in seventh grade. Lee recognized Melin from school, playing tennis with his father one day. Lee happened to be carrying a backpack full of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and asked Melin and his father if they wanted one, he said.
“It was pretty funny actually,” Lee said. “But Owen was almost like a planet. He had a gravitational pull. You just wanted to be his friend. He was such a down to earth person and so genuine. His kindness was unparalleled.”
Lee and Melin went their separate ways for high school, but bumped into each other after graduation and reconnected on Facebook. When Lee was starting a photo business and offering photo shoots, Melin was the first to reach out.
Lee said he photographed Melin several times and the two hung out, having long conversations about what they wanted to do and who they wanted to become.
Lee said Melin told him he wanted to become a therapist.
“He just wanted to do it to help people,” he said. “He helped me pave the way to my own goals and aspirations.”
“I’m not much of religious person, but Owen was an angel,” Lee said. “I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t like him. He was vibrant and so full of life. It just wasn’t his time.”
St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil said the investigation into the home invasion is still “very active.” Detectives do not believe the incident was random and police are asking anyone with information to call its non-emergency line at (727) 893-7780 or send an anonymous message by texting “SPPD” and the tip to TIP-411.
A funeral for Melin was held Tuesday at Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Petersburg. He is survived by his brother Emerson Jake Melin and parents, Charles and Mary Melin. He was preceded in death by his brother Christopher John Melin and grandparents, Charles and Betty Melin.
Miguel Cruz, who worked with Melin at The Looking Glass, a metaphysical supply store in St. Petersburg, said he remembers Melin for his positive attitude and drive.
Cruz said he and Melin used to workout and explore St. Petersburg together, but had not spoken since January.
“He was so unique and so filled with love. He was just a young guy trying to figure out his purpose.”
Cruz said he enjoyed meaningful conversations with Melin and rapping with him.
“Owen was a truth seeker,” Cruz said. “He was seeking the big ‘what is life?’ questions. A lot of people don’t ask those big questions. They run from it, avoiding the pain of the world. Owen was aiming above the world. He was aiming for the stars.”