Updated May 4, 2022 - 2:33 pm
Jurors found a man guilty of murder Wednesday in the 2017 shooting death of his 14-year-old son.
On Nov. 2, 2017, Wendell Melton took a gun with him to confront his son Giovanni at the Henderson apartment where the boy lived alone.
Prosecutors have accused Melton of intentionally shooting the boy, while defense attorneys said Melton brought the gun because he was afraid of his son, and the firearm accidentally went off during a struggle.
The jury found Melton guilty of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon; child abuse, neglect or endangerment with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm; and child abuse, neglect or endangerment.
As the verdict was read Wednesday, Melton stood in court with his arm around defense attorney Jonathan MacArthur. He was seen crying with his head in his hands before District Judge Michelle Leavitt revoked his bail, and he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
“We’re pleased to see justice done in this case,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacob Villani said.
Defense attorneys have said that Giovanni and his brother were sent to live with Melton, but he did not have room for them in his house with his wife and daughter. Giovanni then bounced between houses, staying with friends, relatives or his boyfriend.
Melton eventually rented an apartment for Giovanni and his older brother, but the brother soon left after a fight between the siblings, defense attorney Monique McNeill said in the trial.
Prosecutors have said that after the shooting Melton lied to the police about the gun. He first said that instead of bringing the firearm with him to the apartment he pulled it out from under a couch. But when police went to investigate the furniture, they found that the couch was flat against the ground with no space underneath for a gun.
Melton went to confront Giovanni in November after learning that the boy had not gone to school that day. Defense attorneys said Melton drew and cocked the gun during a physical fight with his son, in order to discourage Giovanni from further attacking him.
McNeill declined to comment following the verdict.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, Chief Deputy District Attorney Binu Palal said Melton’s story about the shooting “doesn’t make sense.” He expressed doubt that Melton was afraid of the 135-pound Coronado High School freshman.
“This is a tragedy,” Palal told the jury. “But make no mistake, the author of this tragedy is Wendell Melton.”
Giovanni’s mother, Veronica Melton, sat in the courtroom with a handful of supporters, some crying as the verdict was read. She said she is happy to know that Wendell Melton will be sentenced to prison.
“Wendell played jury, judge and executioner for my son, and we now finally have our justice,” the mother said. “Because my son didn’t deserve to die.”