Local News

Man gets 25-year sentence in murder of Clinton woman

Posted June 4, 2010 12:48 p.m. EDT

— A Clinton man will spend at least two decades behind bars as part of a plea deal in connection with the 2009 slaying of a 48-year-old woman.

Rene Pinto Melendez, 41, of 219 Ellen St., pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, second-degree rape and felony larceny in the July 26 death of Patrice Denise Lamb.

Melendez will spend between 25 and 31½ years in prison and, once released, will be required to register as a sex offender and be subject to electronic monitoring for the rest of his life. The Honduran national is also subject to Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders.

"While no sentence can make Ms. Lamb's family whole, it is my hope that the restitution of this case helps them in healing and finding some closure," Sampson County District Attorney Dewey Hudson said in a statement.

Lamb was found dead in her Lisbon Street apartment by her sister. Investigators determined that she had been asphyxiated.

Prosecutors said that Melendez's DNA matched that found in a sexual assault kit and on beer bottles and cigarette butts left at the scene.

Police said they tracked down Melendez by calling Lamb's cell phone, which was missing. The woman who answered she had been given the phone by a man later identified as Melendez.

Other residents told police that Melendez came home drunk early that morning, wore a bloody shirt and had scratches on his neck. A woman gave police a bracelet she said Melendez brought home then. Prosecutors said the bracelet was inscribed with "J.C. Royal" – the name of Lamb's husband.

Staff at a nearby convenience store told police that Lamb and Melendez had come to the store together several times.

At the time, Melendez was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of driving while impaired in Sampson County on July 5. Investigators also learned that he two DWI convictions in Michigan under the name Elvin Rojas Garcia.