A Ringgold, Ga., woman killed by blows to her head and stomach last week was known to friends as a kind-hearted person who taught kindergarten at her former church.
Vicki Lacombe, 55, whose death first was investigated as a suicide, was living in Ringgold with her 50-year-old boyfriend, Terry Saxton.
Lacombe, who is from Canton, Ga., was found dead July 9 at her apartment off Knollwood Drive, according to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office. Saxton told police he found her on the ground when he came home, but police said the scene looked suspicious.
Saxton originally was arrested on battery charges for pushing or striking Lacombe, causing her to break bones and have a head injury, his arrest warrant shows.
But when a preliminary autopsy showed blunt-force trauma to the head and abdomen, the charges were increased to murder, Catoosa County sheriff's Lt. Chris Lyons said.
"It looked suspicious to us, but we had to have a cause of death," he said.
Friends of Lacombe said they were surprised anyone could harm a woman who was kind and goodhearted to children at her former church, First United Methodist Church in Canton.
Elisa Hembre said Lacombe used to take care of her autistic son, who didn't get attached to many people, and she was known for helping others in the Sunday school class.
"It breaks my heart that the end of her life was so traumatic and devastating," Hembre said.
Police didn't know how long Lacombe, who has three sons -- a daughter died a few years ago -- had lived in Ringgold or how long she had been dating Saxton.
But evidence shows Saxton previously physically abused Lacombe, Lyons said. The night she died, police believe, the couple argued, but Lyons didn't know what the argument was about.
Saxton, who is being held in the Catoosa County Jail, doesn't have a court date yet, according to the Clerk of Court's office.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.