Neighbor describes dark argument before Henderson teen's shooting death

Booking photo of Wendell Melton. (Courtesy: Henderson police)

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The murder trial of a Las Vegas man accused of killing his son was postponed until 2020. Now members of the LGBTQ community plan a demonstration on the steps of the courthouse.

A petition was circulating this week asking a judge to return the defendant, Wendell Melton, back to jail to await his trail.

Melton, 53, posted the $200,000 bail amount set by Judge Eric Johnson with the condition he remain on a high-level house arrest. 

"Almost everybody gets a bail setting even if they are charged with murder," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

On July 25, Melton's trial was tentatively postponed until March 2020. The victim's mother, Veronica Melton, was in court and saw her son's accused murderer wearing street clothes. 

"For the mother of a child who was killed to sit next to the person who killed her son. That just broke her heart,” said the petition creator and demonstration organizer Jaime Lee Sprague-Ballou.

Several members of the of the LGBTQ community said they believe Melton killed his son because he was gay.

"The father has a history with the son because he was gay, the abuse of him for being gay and neglect of him for being gay," said Sprague-Ballou.

According to the DA’s office, there was no proof supporting that claim.

"In this case there is nothing to suggest, there is no evidence that we have to introduce into a court of law that that was the motivation by the father who shot his own son," said Wolfson.

In his arrest report, the Henderson Police Department said Melton claimed 14-year-old Giovanni attacked him and the shooting was an accident. 

Officers responded on Nov. 2, 2017 to the home on the 900 block of Seven Hills Drive, near St. Rose Parkway, for a domestic disturbance.

Wendell rented an apartment at 950 Seven Hills Drive for his son, Giovanni, to live in alone because he did not get along with his current wife, according to his 2017 arrest report. Wendell said he only stayed overnight in the apartment with Giovanni six to seven times total. Giovanni lived in the apartment since March of 2017.

Wendell went to the apartment to check on Giovanni because he did not show up to school, the report stated. Wendell said he brought a handgun with him to the apartment because "he is afraid of the people Giovanni hung out with." Wendell told police they got into an argument about the teen smoking weed and skipping school.

The police report stated, "according to Wendell, Giovanni attacked him. Wendell stated his finger was in the trigger guard of the handgun and it accidentally went off shooting Giovanni one time in the chest."

A neighbor who spoke on a condition of anonymity said she didn't believe it was an accident.

"I do believe that it was premeditated because he came here with a gun, and when you bring a gun to a fight, you're expecting to use it," she said.

She also said she thinks the argument started over the teen's sexuality because she's heard the two argue about it before.

"He (Giovanni) would be arguing with somebody about his sexuality, and his father would come there and kick all of his friends out," she said.

"I have reason to believe that it was about him being gay," she added.

"We want justice to be served, we want Veronica's voice to be heard and her sons voice to be heard," said Sprague-Ballou.

A demonstration was scheduled for August 9 in front of the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas.

ORIGINAL REPORT

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