Jonelle Melton Murder: Where Are Ebenezer Byrd, Gregory Jean-Baptiste, and Jerry Spraulding Now?

The episode titled ‘A Lesson in Homicide’ of A&E’s ‘Cold Case Files’ takes the viewers back in 2009 to the murder of a social studies teacher named Jonelle Melton. With mystery surrounding her death for several years, someone close to the victim felt the brunt of the suspicion of everyone. The years-long investigation finally led to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. All these intricate details are profiled in the episode, thanks to the exclusive interviews with the victim’s loved ones and the officials connected to the case.

Jonelle Melton Was Found Covered in Blood in Her Home

Jonelle Elaine Saddler Melton was brought into the world by Gwendolyn Cruse and George Saddler Jr. on July 17, 1976, in Trenton, New Jersey. In addition to her parents’ love and support, she also grew up in the company of her two loving sisters — Rachel and Connie Saddler. After completing her schooling at Our Lady of Divine Shepherd School and McCorristin Catholic High School, she earned a Bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University before receiving a Master’s in Supervisory Education from Monmouth University.

Image Credit: leonleonleon/Find a Grave

Since her early days, Jonelle had realized that teaching was her calling. Her dreams came true when she started teaching at the Village Charter School in Trenton and inspired many students. Jonelle was also a faculty member at the Granville Charter School for one year and a long-term substitute for the Trenton Board of Education. All this experience in the teaching field landed her a job at the Red Bank Middle School in the early 2000s, where she taught Social Studies to fifth-grade students. According to her loved ones, she had a deep affinity toward History and found a way to make her students fall in love with the subject as well.

When Jonelle met with Michael Melton, a counselor for school-based youth service, she had gotten him smitten. Interestingly, they were co-workers at Red Bank Middle School. One thing led to another, and their relationship officially blossomed into marriage on August 28, 2003, at Sandals in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in the company of about 30 close people. An active member of the Christian Woman’s Encouragement Group, Jonelle was also set to become a member of the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Lake Como. However, it didn’t come to fruition like many of her future plans as a tragedy struck their lives in 2009.

On September 14, 2009, Jonelle did not show up at school. She was found dead, covered in her own blood, on the floor of her Brighton Arms apartment at 311 West Sylvania Avenue in Neptune. When the authorities were called, they looked closely at the body and the crime scene for any kind of evidence. Jonelle had been repeatedly beaten, stabbed, and shot in the arm, but the cause of her death was a gunshot wound to her head. According to detectives, she was killed by a group of individuals in the late night hours of September 13, 2009, given the gruesome and brutal nature of the crime. They had noticed signs of forced entry on the kitchen window and found a lighter and a piece of used duct tape, which were sent for further examination.

Jonelle Melton Became a Victim of Mistaken Identity

As the interrogation process began, the police brought in Jonelle Melton’s husband, Michael Melton, for questioning. He was the one who found her body in her ransacked apartment on September 14, 2009, and called 911. The authorities learned that the couple had been separated and were going to get officially divorced the following month. Moreover, his DNA was found on the duct tape at the crime scene. He maintained his innocence and claimed that he stepped on it while searching for Jonelle in her house. All these facts turned him into a primary suspect in the eyes of the law as well as his acquaintances, including Jonelle’s family. With nobody to blame for the murder, everyone turned against Michael and considered him to be responsible for the death of his estranged wife.

Ebenezer Byrd

However, new developments emerged in the case more than three years after the murder. On December 2012, DNA was finally found on the lighter and a man named Gregory Jean-Baptiste was linked to the case. Despite questioning him thoroughly, the police could not find enough evidence to arrest him. In order to prove his innocence, Michael made use of some of his contacts and found out the truth about what had happened on the night of September 13, 2009. According to his sources, three gang members hatched a plan to rob a drug dealer named David James, AKA Munch, who allegedly had thousands of dollars in his freezer and lived right next to Jonelle. However, the trio of gang members broke into the wrong house, and when they realized their mistake, they killed Jonelle and fled the scene.

Gregory Jean-Baptiste

After this revelation, the case started unraveling as a couple of witnesses came forward. One of them was Narika Scott, the girlfriend of a convict named Ebenezer Byrd. She claimed that her boyfriend confessed to being involved in the murder of Jonelle Melton, along with Gregory Jean-Baptiste and Jerry Spraulding. Next, Elizabeth Pinto, the former girlfriend of Ebenezer, came clean and admitted that she was the getaway driver for the trio of gangsters on the fateful night. She agreed to testify in court in exchange for a reduced sentence. Finally, on March 23, 2016, Gregory, Ebenezer, and Jerry were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, second-degree robbery, conspiracy, and unlawful weapons charges.

Ebenezer, Gregory, and Jerry Are Serving Their Respective Sentences

On January 17, 2019, nearly a decade after the murder of Jonelle Melton, Ebenezer Byrd, Gregory Jean-Baptiste, and Jerry Spraulding stood trial for the same. After hearing the arguments presented by both sides, the jury found all three accused guilty of first-degree murder, armed burglary, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed burglary, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Furthermore, Ebenezer and Gregory were convicted of witness tampering, while Ebenezer and Jerry were convicted of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Another man named James Fair pleaded guilty to orchestrating the robbery as he was the one who told them about the cash in the freezer of the drug dealer.

Image Credit: Asbury Park Press//Jerry Spraulding

On May 23, 2019, Jerry was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole until he served about 64 years behind bars. A week later, Gregory received a life imprisonment sentence plus 20 years (95 years in total). Until and unless he serves 74 years in prison, he has no chance of being considered for parole. However, his term would begin after he finished the ongoing 25 years of sentence for unrelated drug charges. As far as Ebenezer was concerned, he was sentenced to 83 years and nine months in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Despite their sentencing, they still maintained their innocence. As for Elizabeth, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to probation. Currently, Ebenezer and Gregory are incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison, while Jerry possibly continues to spend his time behind bars at another New Jersey prison.

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