GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. – As his family awaits answers, the stepson of a 53-year-old restaurant worker who was gunned down early Saturday morning on St. Simons Island said he’s been hearing about the impact Dawn Newbauer had on her community -- from people he’s never even met.
“Giving their condolences and sharing how she had impacted their lives,” Matthew Newbauer said. “I know how she impacted our lives as a mom and a grandmother.”
Dawn Newbauer was found early Saturday morning with a gunshot wound to the back of her head outside Nazzaro’s restaurant on St. Simons Island, where she worked.
The manager told News4JAX that Dawn Newbauer left work around 11:30 p.m. after a busy night but came back around 1 a.m. for an unknown reason. She was shot somewhere behind the restaurant.
It’s unclear what led to the murder in the quiet shopping plaza, but Glynn County police have arrested 50-year-old Ricky Easterling and charged him with Newbauer’s murder.
Dawn Newbauer was a mother of four who worked in the restaurant industry in the Golden Isles for 15 years, according to her stepson. He said she had lots of friends and knew a lot of different people, including her accused killer.
But it’s unclear exactly how the two knew each other.
“Right now I don’t know what their relationship was,” Matthew Newbauer said. “I know my stepmom was friends with a lot of people in this area. She’s worked at several restaurants around the Golden Isles. What we know at this point was they knew each other, but I don’t know for how long.”
Matthew Newbauer is a police detective from Seattle and said the details of the crime were particularly disturbing.
“From what I’ve been told, it sounds like it was really traumatic. The nature of the crime and what happened, and I’m sure it was terrible for those who had to process the scene. Much less for the family and for us who had to hear about it,” he said.
Her body was found in the parking lot of the Retreat Village Shopping Plaza in St. Simons Island.
“She was slumped over the trunk of her car. She was missing clothing from the waist down, and she had a gunshot wound to the back of her head,” said Matthew Newbauer.
He said the family is now awaiting the results of the autopsy to get more answers. They hope to get the results Tuesday.
Matthew Newbauer said as police work to piece together what happened to his stepmother, her family is left to mourn her loss -- with many unanswered questions.
“Now we’re trying to plan things in the short term, plan a type of memorial service that would be worthy of our mom and think about the long term,” he said. “How we explain this to her grandchildren, how we put my younger brother, her son, through remaining years in college, things like that. We’re still in a state of shock.”
A GoFundMe page set up by her stepson has already raised more than $9,500.
”This came as an absolute shock to us. Everybody says stuff like this, but she lit up every room she went into. She was the life of every party,” said Matthew Newbauer. “She was the type of person that would become your best friend after a couple hours. We’re having a hard time understanding why somebody would want to do this to her. She definitely didn’t deserve it -- the love she gave to everybody.”
Matthew Newbauer has been a law enforcement officer for 15 years. He said he spent the majority of that time investigating major crimes and violent felonies.
”I’ve investigated these types of things for years and it even took me by surprise how shocking the scene was,” said Newbauer. “Most shootings between known individuals, they’re usually in the heat of passion or an argument or whatnot. In my professional opinion from investigating these types of things, it was a lot more violent than what most seasoned law enforcement officers are used to seeing.”
Police said evidence found at the scene led the GCPD to identify Easterling as a person of interest. The GCPD said they continued their investigation and obtained several search warrants that resulted in significant evidence being found, including a firearm that is believed to be linked to the crime.
Easterling is charged with multiple crimes, including felony murder and is currently being held at the Glynn County Detention Center.
”We’re really thankful for the quick actions of the Glynn County Police Department for identifying and apprehending the suspect in this case so quickly,” said Matthew Newbauer.
The investigation is ongoing, and the GCPD urges anyone with relevant information to contact Silent Witness at 912-264-1333.