Justice for teacher found beaten to death in ’09? Fourth man arrested
Even as a fourth man has been arrested in the 2009 "cold case" killing of a Red Bank middle school teacher, authorities say they're continuing to chase down leads — more developments than have been publicly seen in years in the death of Jonelle Melton.
Jerry J. Spraulding, 38, of Keansburg is facing several charges including first-degree felony murder in Melton's death, acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. A felony murder charge applies when a victim is killed in the commission of another crime.
In November, authorities announced charges against three other men — James Fair, 27, Ebenezer Byrd, 35, and Gregory Jean-Baptiste, 26, all of Asbury Park, who are each facing similar charges in connection with the Sept. 14, 2009 death.
Spraulding is currently serving an eight-year sentence in Northern State Prison after he was convicted last year on two counts of third-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, the prosecutor's office announced.
His bail for the new charges was set at $1.5 million.
Jonelle Melton, a 33-year-old veteran school teacher at Red Bank Middle School, was killed inside her Neptune City apartment, the prosecutor's office said.
Neptune City Police Department received a 911 call around 9:07 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2009, reporting the discovery of unresponsive woman in an apartment in the Brighton Arms complex, 311 West Sylvania Ave. in the borough. it said. Officers arrived on scene and found Jonelle Melton; Monmouth Ocean Hospital Services Corporation paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced her deceased, the prosecutor's office said.
According to the prosecutor's office, the investigation has continued for six years, and was one of the first cases to utilize the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line and reward program.
It said the four men charged "planned to burglarize a specific apartment in the Brighton Arms complex. However, the men broke into the wrong apartment and encountered the victim."
"At some point after realizing they were in the wrong apartment, the men brutally murdered Melton," the prosecutor's office said.
If convicted of felony murder, Spraulding faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in a New Jersey state prison, during which time he would be ineligible for parole, and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, subject to the provisions of the No Early Release Act, requiring him to serve 85 percent of any sentence imposed in excess of 30 years prior to becoming eligible for parole, the prosecutor's office said.
Authorities are asking anyone with information related to the investigation to contact Detective Scott Samis of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Lieutenant Matt Quagliato of the Neptune City Police Department at 732-775-1615.
Information can also be given anonymously to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-671-4400, by texting "MONMOUTH” plus a tip to 274637; or via monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.