SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - Family and friends are grieving the loss of a retired educator and prominent figure in Gilroy tragically killed on Christmas Day. Authorities arrested her 39-year-old son for her murder after they say he beat the 70-year-old with a baseball bat.
Claudia Salewske spent most of her time volunteering here at the Gilroy Historical Museum. She was a big time historian and wrote a book about Gilroy's roots.
"She was the go to person for historical information," said Connie Rogers, who is the victim's friend. "As the President of the Historical Society, I get a lot of questions but I would always go to her to get the answer."
Rogers has known Claudia Salewske for more than 35 years and she has nothing but fond memories of her friend she calls "the community contributor." Her sudden passing is a complete shock.
"We don't have those kind of things in Gilroy especially to someone who was so well-known and well-respected in the community," said Rogers.
"It's extremely tragic," said Sgt. Richard Glennon. "She was a prominent member in the City of Gilroy."
Authorities said around 11 a.m. on Christmas Day, family members inside a home on Roop Road in unincorporated Gilroy called 911. When deputies got there, they found the 70-year-old distress suffering from severe head trauma. She died at the hospital.
The Sheriff's Office said her son 39-year-old Matthew Salewske attacked his mother with a baseball bat. They arrested him.
"Mrs. Salewske was really one of nicest ladies," said Neighbor Megan Gutierrez.
Gutierrez lives across the street. While it's unclear what led up to the attack, she said the son Matthew had suffered from mental illness.
"As soon as we saw what was going on," said Gutierrez. "We assumed it had something to do with the son immediately."
Claudia Salewske is being remembered as an active churchgoer at the Gilroy Methodist Church. Now retired, she had a long career as an educator teaching English at Gilroy High School and then at San Jose State University.
The University issued a statement expressing condolences. SJSU Vice President and Provost Andy Feinstein writing, "I understand she was a valued colleague and friend to many at San Jose State."
She also authored this book about Gilroy's history. Loved by her students and her community, she leaves behind a husband, daughter and son.
"They are the ones who will be severely affected but we will miss her a great deal," said Rogers.
Claudia Salewske left her mark in Gilroy as she was instrumental in selecting pictures for a historical project in downtown Gilroy. Matthew Salewske held at the Santa Clara County Main Jail without bail