Police investigate the scene of a homicide-suicide at a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven store on Jan. 1. The incident was just one example of increased city crime this year. Photo by Jacob Pierce.
Police investigate the scene of a homicide-suicide at a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven store on Jan. 1. The incident was just one example of increased city crime this year. Photo by Jacob Pierce.

On Jan. 1, 2010, the first day of a new year, 24-year-old 7-Eleven salesclerk Nichole Schrock was found dead in the bathroom of her workplace along with her 42-year-old ex-boyfriend Illya Cavlan.

According to police spokesperson Zach Friend, both suffered from an undetermined number of gunshot wounds and their bodies were found around 9:45 a.m., after a customer — who found the store open and unattended — contacted authorities.

“It appears to be a domestic violence case,” Friend said.

A police inspection found that Cavlan shot Schrock in the bathroom and subsequently shot himself. Police found a revolver near Cavlan’s body. Although evidence suggests that the couple was once in a relationship, the motive for the crime has yet to be determined.

An employee from a local business across the street from the 7-Eleven described the aftermath of the situation.

“I thought it was just a robbery at first, with all of the cop cars and the caution tape,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “I’ve been living here for 25 years and I have never seen anything like this.”

The representative also described her personal discomfort with the situation.

“I know [Schrock] because I get coffee there all the time in the mornings,” she said. “It’s not a small town anymore and the crime rate is getting up there now.”

The year 2009 proved to be a rocky one for the college beach town as Santa Cruz racked up four homicides, various assaults, and countless auto thefts.

“The years 2005 to 2008 had a marked decline in city crime,” Friend said. “But in 2009 there was an increase in a number of crime categories, including theft, assault and burglary.”

The homicides of 2009 included an Eastside stabbing; the stabbing of Santa Cruz High junior Tyler Tenorio; the murder of L.A. resident Elias Sorokin; and a shooting at the San Lorenzo River levee during Thanksgiving.

Friend pointed out that all of the documented homicides were gang-related, and that some of the other crimes, but not all, were attributed to gangs.

Santa Cruz residents took note of the exponential growth in community violence and its effect on UC Santa Cruz students.

Maren Preston, a second-year art major at UCSC, lives up the street from the 7-Eleven where the crime took place.

“I feel like I’ve seen a lot more cops lately,” Preston said. “And that’s good that they’re trying to get more safety in the community.”

However, the anonymous local employee shaken by Schrock’s death expressed concern that without citizen cooperation, no positive change can be made in terms of improving public safety, even with the help of added security.

“We don’t want to start off the year that way,” the woman said. “People need to get involved and write to their city council if they want to see change.”

Friend commented on the importance of community participation in preventing local violence or crime from spreading.

“There are 94 police officers and about 56,000 people living in Santa Cruz,” Friend said. “When we have our greatest success is when people take an ownership to their neighborhood.”

Preston also pointed out that although residents in the area and throughout the town may feel like the quality of safety has plummeted over the past 12 months, precautions must be taken to help keep the community as peaceful as possible.

“I don’t think you should be afraid to live your life, but you should still be aware of your surroundings,” she said. “I hope that people can look at the tragedies in our community and make more of an effort to be safe.”