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.

Defendant Charges Sentence
James Andrew Melton,

65, Los Angeles

Found guilty by a jury on May 22, 2017, of the following felony counts:

  • First Degree Murder
  • Burglary
  • Robbery

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.

Orange County District Attorney / Case # C-49015 / April 13, 2018

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