HANAHAN, SC (WCSC) - The Hanahan man who's accused of strangling his girlfriend and then stuffing her body inside a closet did it because she found out he was talking to another woman, according to an arrest warrant.
A Hanahan police arrest warrant states Michael Strait, 35, confessed Wednesday to murdering Melanie Rivera, 39.
The warrant said on November 5, Strait grabbed Rivera by the neck forcefully, and held her down on the living room couch until she stopped moving and breathing. Strait told police the altercation happened because he had been caught by Rivera communicating with another woman via phone calls and text messages.
Thursday afternoon the Berkeley County Coroner said Rivera died from asphyxiation due to manual strangulation. Her manner of death was ruled a homicide.
The Coroner was called to The Landing Apartments Tuesday afternoon. The investigation shows Rivera was inside the closet for more than 24 hours.
"She wasn't just a regular person, she always cared for everybody else," said Danielle Marriott, Rivera's best friend. "I think that's how people need to remember her. Not a woman who was found disrespectfully inside a closet with just no care in the world.
Marriott said she's barely slept since learning the news about her best friend's death.
She worked with Rivera at a craft store in North Charleston for more than 10 years.
"I'm just dreading walking into that place, and knowing at five o'clock I'm not going to see her," she said.
When Rivera didn't show up for work Monday, Marriott knew something was wrong.
She and several other coworkers contacted police to conduct a welfare check.
A spokesperson with Hanahan police said when officers entered the apartment, they discovered Rivera's body inside a closet, with boxes stacked in front of the door.
The arrest warrant states when Strait realized Rivera was dead, he immediately got rid of all her belongings in the community dumpster and then put her body in the downstairs linen closet with the motivation to conceal the crime.
"You don't do that to anybody," Marriott said. "No regard for human life itself. To be stuffed in a closet like a piece of old furniture or a piece of trash is just disrespectful."
Marriott knows Michael Strait. She said the last time she saw the couple was Friday night.
"They seemed fine," Marriott said. "I didn't think anything of it."
There were some things though that didn't sit well with Marriott about the relationship.
"I've heard at times that it got... loud," she said. "I guess that's the best way to put it."
Marriott said she can't believe something like this would happen to Rivera, someone who put others before herself.
As Strait is expected to appear in court Thursday night, Marriott has one thing she wants to ask.
"Why? Why? Why would you do that?" she said. "She was telling me she was so happy, and she loved Mike and things were so much better. Why? Why would you do that to someone who loved and cared for you so much."
A spokesperson with Hanahan police said Strait was arrested Tuesday night during a traffic stop as he was headed back to the apartment.
He faces a murder charge from Hanahan Police along with several other charges from other agencies.