Fugitive caught in California
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.