Fugi­tive caught in Cal­i­for­nia

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

A Scott County man who has been on the run since De­cem­ber from a Lo­gan County mur­der charge has been ar­rested in Cal­i­for­nia while cross­ing into the United States from Mex­ico, Lo­gan County Sher­iff Boyd Hicks said Tues­day.

Hicks said he was on his way to San Diego to pick up Robert Allen Mel­ton, 53, of Wal­dron and re­turn him to Lo­gan County for trial. He said Mel­ton waived ex­tra­di­tion. On­line records say Mel­ton was be­ing held Tues­day in the San Diego County jail with­out bail. Hicks said he es­ti­mated he would re­turn to Lo­gan County with Mel­ton on Fri­day.

A post­ing on the Lo­gan County Sher­iff’s Of­fice’s Face­book page Sun­day said Mel­ton was ar­rested July 11 on a felony war­rant from Lo­gan County.

Hicks said Mel­ton was cross­ing the bor­der from Mex­ico into the United States with a group of peo­ple. When au­thor­i­ties ap­proached, the oth­ers ran and left Mel­ton be­hind.

He said Mel­ton had spent a lot of time in the Los Angeles area.

A war­rant for fail­ure to ap­pear was is­sued Dec. 2 af­ter Mel­ton didn’t show up in Lo­gan County Cir­cuit Court in Booneville for a pre­trial hear­ing, court records showed.

At the time of his dis­ap­pear­ance, Mel­ton was sched­uled for trial Dec. 14 on charges of first-de­gree mur­der, ag­gra­vated rob­bery and un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of a firearm. Mel­ton had been free on a $100,000 bond since March 2016. Hicks said Mel­ton had med­i­cal prob­lems and un­der­went heart surgery af­ter his re­lease.

Mel­ton con­tin­ued to re­port each week as his bond re­quired and showed up for his court pro­ceed­ings un­til Dec. 2. Hicks said he be­lieved Mel­ton was close to work­ing out a plea agree­ment with the prose­cu­tor’s of­fice when he fled. Mel­ton was charged along with four oth­ers in the April 2, 2015, shoot­ing death of Ritchie Lynch, 60, whose de­com­pos­ing body was found three days later out­side his home at 1575 Glover Daniels Road north of Booneville.

An Arkansas State Po­lice ar­rest war­rant af­fi­davit said Mel­ton, Teresa Ben­nett of Booneville, Dave Ann Townsend of Pine Bluff, and Nick Sto­icu and Joseph Brown, both of Mena, drove in a van to Lynch’s home to steal drugs and money from him.

Park­ing nearby, the women waited in the van while Sto­icu, Brown and Mel­ton walked in the woods to the bound­ary of Lynch’s prop­erty, the af­fi­davit said. Mel­ton waited there while Sto­icu and Brown, armed with a ri­fle and a pis­tol, walked on to the house, the af­fi­davit said.

Min­utes later, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit, Mel­ton and the women heard gun­fire from the di­rec­tion of Lynch’s house and Sto­icu and Brown re­turned with a duf­fel bag. An au­topsy re­port said Lynch had been shot five times.

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