- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Police thought they were handling a routine drug raid at a ritzy hotel until they opened a large container and found a woman’s body preserved on a bed of dry ice.

In the days since the macabre discovery, the tale has only become more bizarre.

Acquaintances said Monique Trepp, a 33-year-old aspiring model, died a year ago and that her boyfriend, a convicted drug dealer, held a wake for her at the hotel where he lived for three years. Authorities said she had been dead “awhile,” but released few other details.

The person who likely knows more is Miss Trepp’s 46-year-old boyfriend, Stephen David Royds.

Royds made a cryptic statement from jail, where he is being held on $1 million bail on felony drug charges and a warrant from a 2002 conviction for selling cocaine.

Authorities have not said whether they will prosecute Royds for keeping Miss Trepp’s body and not reporting her death. An autopsy found no signs of homicide. Toxicology reports were pending, but authorities said Miss Trepp likely overdosed on drugs.

“Right now, we only have sufficient evidence to support the drug-related charges,” said Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney.

Silence surrounding the case has baffled those who know the couple. The pair acted strangely at times but were polite and engaging, said Arturo Flores, general manager of Tapas, a restaurant the couple frequented.

A driver would chauffeur them a few hundred yards from the Fairmont Hotel across the street to Tapas, where Royds and Miss Trepp drank liberally, paid cash and tipped waiters with lottery tickets.

“We saw these people on a daily basis. Just because you see they are weird doesn’t mean they’re bad people,” Mr. Flores said.

Police had tailed Royds for some time when they arrested him last week. An informant said he was selling cocaine on the beach, Sgt. Evan Sailor said.

Miss Trepp’s body was found stuffed in a giant plastic container packed with dry ice in Royds’ executive suite, which goes for up to $400 per night.

A hotel spokeswoman said Royds had negotiated a discounted rate because of his extended stay, but did not elaborate.

Christmas presents and drug paraphernalia were scattered across the room, said Dennis Conway, assistant district attorney.

Royds used multiple aliases, including Mel Proffitt, a variation on the name of Kevin Spacey’s character in the 1987 TV series “Wiseguy,” about a drug kingpin, Mr. Conway said.

In a jailhouse interview, the New Zealand native told the Orange County Register that “everything that happened was for religious reasons.” He repeated the sentence four times, but said no more.

Royds’ public defender did not speak after a court appearance Monday and did not return phone messages left by the Associated Press.

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