FREEHOLD BOROUGH — One of the four men convicted of brutally killing a beloved Red Bank Middle School teacher nearly 10 years ago will likely die in prison.

Jerry J. Spraulding, 41, of Keansburg, will be about 100 years old before he is eligible for parole from his life sentence, which in New Jersey amounts to 75 years.

Spraulding on Thursday was the first to be sentenced of the three men convicted in March of killing 33-year-old Jonelle Melton in September 2009.

He, Ebenezer Byrd, 39, and Gregory A. Jean-Baptiste, 30, were found guilty of first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree burglary, second-degree weapons offenses, among other charges.

The men broke into Melton's Neptune City apartment wrongly believing that it was the home of a drug dealer who they wanted to steal from. After discovering their mistake, the men killed Melton.

The four suspects were arrested in 2016. Spraulding was serving an eight-year prison sentence for a 2015 drug conviction when he was charged with Melton's murder.

In 2017, James M. Fair, a Bloods gang leader, was sentenced to more than 80 years in prison after he admitted plotting the botched burglary. He also was convicted of nearly 80 other gang-related offenses from 2017.

Jean-Baptiste, of Asbury Park, will be sentenced Thursday. Byrd, also of Asbury Park, will be sentenced June 6.

Jonelle Melton
Jonelle Melton (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

Melton was a woman of faith whose contributions to her students extended beyond the classroom. She was member of the School Improvement Team and the Leadership Program at Red Bank Regional High School, and was a Student Council Advisor.

She was also involved with the Christian Woman’s Encouragement Group and was waiting to become a member of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Lake Como during its annual Woman’s Day celebration.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email him.

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Deputy Digital Editor Sergio Bichao.

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