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Grass Valley City Hall suicide questions linger, a day after shooting in restroom

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Why a distraught woman chose Grass Valley City Hall to kill herself remained a mystery Thursday, a day after her body was found by an employee in a first floor restroom stall. The woman – identified by family members as Josephine Melton and a mother of three – died of a single gunshot wound to the head, Grass Valley Police reported. The gun – a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol – and a note to a family member were discovered with her in the stall after the shooting, which was first discovered at 11:44 a.m. Wednesday. Melton, 31, was a Grass Valley resident and Police Capt. Rex Marks said after the shooting that there was no known reason why she had chosen the 125 East Main St. building for her final minutes. Traumatized City Hall employees were offered counseling from chaplain’s services after the death. The building is the work place to as many as 28 city employees at one time. Civic workers were initially detained inside the building while the investigation into the death took place and the building was closed to visitors. The building in the city of 11,000’s downtown business district was fully reopened Thursday. City Administrator Dan Holler said that it will close again Friday for a previously scheduled off day for budgetary reasons. According to Grass Valley Police, Melton was discovered locked inside the single stall. “The victim … was neither an employee nor found to have any involvement wit any employee preceding the incident,” Marks said. “The reason for the victim’s presence at City Hall is unknown.” Holler said there are no plans to change any operations at the building in light of the death. “There was definitely no interaction with the city,” Holler said. “She could have chosen restrooms at a park. I can’t fathom why she made this choice but there was nothing we could do to change that.” With meetings lasting sometimes two to three hours and people going in and out all day, Holler said there is no thought to close the restrooms at City Hall. “I don’t know of any city halls in this country that no longer have them open,” he said. “This is a public building with open access.” Holler added that he and other city employees have been heartened by the outpouring of community concern and support. “It’s a tragedy to have this happen – it’s shaken people up,” Holler said. “We’re a tight community and have loved the outpouring from people expressing concern and wishing us well. It’s been a positive thing for staff.”