How Monique Felicia Trepp wound up dead and packed in dry ice in a Newport Beach hotel room is proving to be a mystery full of bizarre leads but as yet no answers.
The Orange County coroner believes Trepp, who was discovered last week in a Rubbermaid container in a room at the Fairmont hotel, died of a drug overdose. Stephen David Royds, who had been living in the hotel for years, is being held on drug charges but isn’t a suspect in Trepp’s death.
Beyond that, things get fuzzy fast.
Royds and Trepp have been described by authorities as drug abusers who used the Fairmont as their $150-to-$200-a-night crash pad. To the staff at nearby restaurants and bars they frequented, they seemed like a loving couple.
Trepp, 33, went from being a cheerleader at Norco High School to dancing at a seedy Orange County strip club. Her grandmother, Ramona Trepp, 76, said she had not seen her granddaughter in 20 years and that the family was not close.
Royds, a 46-year-old New Zealand native, was reportedly a championship-caliber skier who moved to the United States about 20 years ago to pursue the sport and eventually turned to dealing cocaine, authorities said. His father told the New Zealand Herald that he had not heard from his son in two decades.
Police say Royds used several aliases, including “Mel Profitt,” the name of a high-living, drug-dealing character from the 1980s television drama “Wiseguy.”
Interviewed in jail by the Orange County Register, Royds explained why he had kept his girlfriend on ice: “Everything that happened was for religious reasons.” He didn’t elaborate.
Other than selling drugs, Royds had no visible means of support, said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office.
How he and Trepp hooked up is unknown. But at some point in the last couple of years, Trepp apparently moved from a cramped, run-down apartment in Huntington Beach to the ninth floor of the high-end Fairmont Newport Beach, with its marble tile floors, tennis courts and spa.
When she moved into the Huntington Beach apartment in 1999, she was working as a dancer at Mr. J’s, a Santa Ana strip club that has since closed, said Mike Smith, who manages the apartment complex.
Smith described her as a quiet, “good girl,” who never threw parties or had too many friends over.
“She struck me as a really hard worker,” he said.
His only complaint was that Trepp was continually late on the $900-a-month rent. Eventually, she found a waitress job at Ruby’s Diner in Huntington Beach. Smith recalled she was excited and showed off her uniform to him.
“Look at my cute little red dress,” he recalled her saying. “I’m going to look so good in it. And I don’t have to strip anymore.”
In 2005, a man moved in with Trepp and started paying the rent, Smith said. Trepp signed over her security deposit to the man, Smith said.
Smith said he didn’t realize that Trepp had moved out of the apartment until he saw news reports about her death. Her name is still on the rental agreement, and a man whom Smith identified as her one-time roommate still lives there. On Tuesday, he answered the door dressed in a T-shirt with a towel around his waist.
He said he didn’t know Monique Trepp.
Trepp and Royds were well known at the restaurants and bars across the street from the Fairmont. One of their favorites was Tapas, where Royds drank Coors Light and Trepp ordered cosmopolitans.
“They seemed like a loving couple,” said Arturo Flores, the restaurant’s manager. “They were always together and seemed like they were having fun.”
Royds was a “likable, thoughtful guy,” who debated politics and bought drinks for other customers, Flores said. Trepp was a “happy girl,” who liked to talk about fashion and makeup.
About a year ago, Flores said, an employee at a nearby sports bar told him that Royds had said Trepp died. Flores had also heard that Royds held a memorial service for her.
Flores saw Royds at the bar a few weeks later and expressed his condolences. The two never discussed Trepp again, Flores said, although Royds continued to be a regular at the restaurant.
Authorities were led to Royds’ hotel room by an informant who told them he was dealing cocaine at the beach, said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Evan Sailor. Police found a small amount of narcotics, several wrapped Christmas presents but not a lot of money -- certainly nothing that could explain how Royds had been able to afford to live at the hotel for a number of years.