FREEHOLD – A Keansburg man has been added to the list of men charged in the 2009 killing of a Red Bank middle school teacher, announced Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
Jerry J. Spraulding, 38, of Keansburg, is charged with first degree Felony Murder, first degree Armed Robbery, second degree Conspiracy to Commit Armed Burglary, second degree Armed Burglary, second degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, second degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon and second degree Certain Persons Not to Possess Weapons.
Spraulding joins 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 of 33-year-old Jonelle Melton.
Spraulding is currently serving an 8-year sentence in Northern State Prison after he was convicted last year on 2 counts of third degree Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. His bail for the new charges was set at $1.5 million, by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley.
Jonelle Melton was a 33-year-old veteran school teacher at Red Bank Middle School when she was killed inside her Neptune City apartment. She was an active member of the school community; as a member of the School Improvement team, the Leadership Program at Red Bank Regional High School, and selected to serve as the Student Council Advisor.
Melton was an active member of the Christian Woman’s Encouragement Group, and was scheduled to officially become a member of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Lake Como during its annual Woman’s Day celebration.
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. Officers arrived on scene and found the victim, 33-year old Jonelle Melton, inside of the apartment. Monmouth Ocean Hospital Services Corporation (MONOC) paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced Ms. Melton deceased.
A joint investigation was immediately launched by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Neptune City Police Department. The investigation continued over the course of the past six years, and was one of the first cases to utilize the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line and reward program.
As a result of that investigation, detectives learned that Spraulding, Fair, Byrd, and Jean-Baptiste 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 Ms. Melton.
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” (NERA), requiring him to serve 85 percent of any sentence imposed in excess of 30 years prior to becoming eligible for parole.
If convicted of first degree Robbery, Spraulding faces a maximum of 20 years in state prison, subject to the provisions of NERA, and if convicted of second degree Conspiracy or second degree Burglary, he faces up to 10 years in state prison, also subject to the provisions of NERA. If convicted of Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose or Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, he faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on each charge, subject to a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of the greater of either half of the sentence imposed or 42 months, as well as up to 10 years imprisonment with a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility on the Certain Persons charge.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.
The case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County First Assistant Prosecutor Marc C. LeMieux and Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Bogner.
Notwithstanding these arrests, the investigation into the murder of Ms. Melton is ongoing and detectives continue to pursue additional leads. Anyone with information related to this investigation should 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.
In addition, anyone with information about this violent crime may contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-671-4400, which is a confidential telephone tip line; they can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com
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