FAYETTEVILLE -- Katie Wood was looking forward to graduation, a summer trip to Sweden and graduate school. The only cloud over her life, according to friends, was an ex-boyfriend who wouldn't leave her alone.
Now those friends are coping with the fact that Wood, 24, is gone, and the ex she was trying to avoid has been arrested in connection with her murder.
"We were going to do all these things," said Anna Gilliland, a friend who worked with Wood as a barrista at the coffee shop in Hastings. "She told us he'd always been a nice guy, but had been acting erratic since they broke up. I don't think it was to the point she was scared of him, but she was taking some basic precautions."
That included staying with friends most nights. On Sunday morning, Wood stopped by her apartment to get ready for work. That's when police say the former boyfriend, Zachariah Scott Marcyniuk, 28, attacked the senior English major.
"There was a lot of screaming and struggle, but I didn't think it had gotten that bad," said Wenfeng Li, who lives upstairs at the Colonial Arms complex on Leverett Avenue. "She was always real quiet. I only ever saw her walk from her car."
Wood and Marcyniuk had dated for about a year, but she ended the relationship about a month ago, said Bre Elliott, Wood's manager at Hastings.
"It was basically to the point where he was showing up at her house or wherever she was. She needed to be where he couldn't find here," Elliott said. "He was annoying her to the point where she couldn't do anything."
Capable of Anything
"Katie was not your typical bland undergraduate. She had a panache, a style, that set her apart," said Joe Candido, chairman of the English department at the University of Arkansas. "She was quiet in class, but occasionally during the lecture, this wry smile would creep across her face. She was a very aware, very savvy kid."
Steve Lucas, Wood's high school principal in Greenbrier, agreed. He remembers her clearly despite not seeing her much since she graduated in 2002.
"She was a smiling, bubbly, jumping class act of a young lady," Lucas said. "I knew that whatever she did, she'd be successful. She was very laid-back, but when she attacked something, she was serious about it. Her death is horrible, tragic news."
Candido hadn't heard about Wood's hopes for graduate school, but said she could have made it look easy.
"She would have made an excellent graduate student. She was ready for that," he said.
Wood's personality outshined a physically small girl, Gilliland said.
"She had a tiny frame, but a huge impact on everyone she met," she said.
Gilliland, Elliott, Wood and other friends typically went out together on Wednesday nights to play pool, a fact that Marcyniuk did not like, Elliott said.
"We're going to play again this Wednesday as sort of a memorial to her," she said.
His Checkered Past
Wood knew Marcyniuk had been arrested in the past, but assumed it was something minor, Gilliland said. Marcyniuk was arrested twice in 2005 for crimes against a former girlfriend.
He was convicted of misdemeanor residential burglary for breaking into her apartment in January 2005, and again four months later for aggravated assault and violating a protection order brought by the same woman.
He was sentenced to two years' probation on the aggravated assault charge. In both instances, more serious charges were dropped.
Gilliland said she thinks Marcyniuk misled Wood about his past. "She was so sensible, nobody thought she'd stay with somebody like that."
Marcyniuk was a junior majoring in art until he withdrew from classes last month, said Steve Voorhies, media relations manager for the university.
"We don't know if he actually attended classes this semester, but he officially left in February," Voorhies said.
Marcyniuk listed graduation from West Fork High School on his MySpace Web page. He listed attendance at the university from 1998 to present. His hometown was listed as Beaumont, Texas.
The arrest affidavit says police spoke with his father, Michael Marcyniuk. A telephone message left at a Marcyniuk residence outside West Fork was not returned Monday.
Officers responding to Wood's apartment Sunday morning found a cellular phone in her purse outside the apartment, and called Wood's mother, who asked police to check on her daughter, according to the arrest affidavit.
After breaking down the front door and a locked bathroom door, officers found Wood's body in the bathtub with wounds to her torso, according to the report.
An official cause of death will not be available for about a week, until the medical examiner has a chance to review the case, said Sgt. Shannon Gabbard of the Fayetteville Police Department.
"It looks like blunt force trauma, but that's speculative until we get results back from the M.E. (medical examiner)," Gabbard said. "I can say there was no gun, no poison or anything like that."
When officers heard about Wood's relationship to Marcyniuk and his past arrests, he became the primary suspect, Gabbard said.
By that time, according to the affidavit, Marcyniuk had driven to his parents' home. He told them he hurt Katie and asked them to take care of his dog. His mother pleaded with him to call police. Marcynuik wrestled out of her grip and drove away. A state trooper pulled him over for speeding in southwest Oklahoma about 5 p.m, checked Marcynuik's license, found he was wanted in Fayetteville, and arrested him.
Marcyniuk remained in Beckham County Jail in Sayre, Okla., on Monday evening. Fayetteville officers interviewed him in the jail and are working to extradite him to Arkansas on a first-degree murder charge, Gabbard said.
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