Melissa Mae Wageman volunteered to shop and cook for disabled friends.
A single mother, she was raising a teenage son - an honor student and musician at Shadle Park High School.
She was so well liked at Happy Time Tavern on North Division that regulars threw her a 40th birthday party Thursday.
Wageman left the party with Danial Peters, 22, who is charged with killing Wageman sometime during the night. Autopsy results released Tuesday concluded she was beaten over the head with a blunt instrument.
“She just trusted the wrong guy,” said Wageman’s son, Troy Wageman, 15.
Friends and relatives acknowledged Tuesday that Wageman sometimes used drugs. But they doubt Peters’ story that he and Wageman spent the night at his house, downing Valium.
“Missy was not the type to go home and go to bed with people,” said her brother, Greg Many. “She was a pretty tough cookie herself.”
In an interview Monday, Peters said he can’t remember killing Wageman but awoke Friday morning to find her body in his apartment, a half-block from the tavern. He also found a bloody length of pipe.
Peters said he put the body in his roommate’s pickup and drove to a friend’s house in Valley, Wash., where he called police and turned himself in.
Spokane police say Peters, who is facing a first-degree murder charge, has given different versions of the story. David Greene, the friend who convinced Peters to confess, isn’t surprised.
“Over the period of time that I’ve known him, he’s continually told me so many stories - just lies - that I don’t believe him any more,” he said.
Peters was convicted last year of burglary. He also has juvenile convictions for second-degree robbery in 1988 and second-degree incest in 1985, records show.
Greene said Peters dropped out of high school in Monterey, Calif., and lived on the streets for a time before moving to Spokane, where he has relatives.
Peters has seen counselors for emotional problems, according to Greene.
In his jail interview, Peters said he met Wageman at Happy Time Tavern, and sometimes joined her in using Valium and other drugs.
Wageman, whose name was misspelled in a weekend police report and in a newspaper story based on that report, sometimes tended bar at the tavern, said owner Donna Mason.
But regulars knew her better as an accomplished pool player, a member of the tavern’s softball team and the one who convinced them last year to donate $950 to COPS West, a police substation.
“She was a great lady, had a heart of gold,” Mason said.