MAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN STATE PRISON AFTER THIRD TRIAL FOR 1981 MURDER OF 77-YEAR-OLD VICTIM HE MET THROUGH A MAGAZINE AD
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was sentenced yesterday to life in state prison without the possibility of paroleafter his third trial for the 1981 murder of a 77-year-old victim he met through a magazine ad.
James Andrew Melton,
65, Los Angeles
Found guilty by a jury on May 22, 2017, of the following felony counts:
First Degree Murder
Special Circumstances Found True:
Murder during the commission of a burglary
Murder during the commission of a robbery
Life in state prison without the possibility of parole
Circumstances of the Case
In 1981, Melton formulated a plan to meet and rob older, wealthy men interested in romantic encounters.
In October 1981, the defendant met the victim, 77-year-old widow Anthony Desousa, through a male companionship advertisement placed in The Advocate.
On Oct. 12, 1981, the victim agreed to pick up Melton at the Disneyland Hotel and bring him back to his residence in Newport Beach.
Once inside Desousa’s home, Melton bound the victim and then beat and strangled him to death.
The defendant robbed the victim and burglarized his home, taking jewelry and several personal belongings before fleeing the scene in the victim’s vehicle.
On or about Oct. 13, 1981, Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) received a request for a welfare check at the victim’s residence and discovered the victim’s body.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) located the defendant with the victim’s vehicle and arrested Melton on Oct. 16, 1981.
Procedural History of the Case
Melton was originally tried in November of 1982 in front the Honorable Robert Fitzgerald.
The jury convicted the defendant of burglary, robbery, and first degree murder, and found to be true the special circumstances of murder in the commission of a burglary and murder in the commission of a robbery on Dec. 1, 1982.
As this case was a death penalty case, the jury recommended death on Dec. 17, 1982.
On March 18, 1983, the defendant was sentenced to death by Judge Fitzgerald.
The California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the conviction on March 3, 1988.
On Jan. 19, 2007, United States District Judge Robert M. Takasugi granted a petition for writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that Melton was mentally incompetent at the time of his trial.
The court found that the defendant was improperly medicated with excessive doses of psychotropic drugs and as a result caused the defendant to lack a rational understanding of the proceedings against him and therefore deprived him of the ability to participate in his defense in a rational manner at trial.
On May 18, 2012, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas informed the courtthat the Orange County District Attorney’s Office would not be seeking death in the retrial.
On Aug. 30, 2012, the Honorable Judge William Froeberg denied the defendant's request to dismiss the case based upon his denial of a speedy trial.
In May of 2014, the case went to trial in front of the Honorable William Froeberg. The case resulted in mistrial.
The case was re-assigned to the Honorable Greg L. Prickett and the defendant’s third trial began on May 14, 2017.
On May 22, 2017, a jury convicted Melton of all charges and enhancements.
Prosecutor: Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy, Homicide Unit.