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Brad Byrd In-Depth: Detective Brent Melton

Welcome to In-Depth. More than a week ago tonight a jury was in the middle of deliberations that went on for eleven hours in the murder trial of Terrence Roach. Roach was standing charges of murder in the death of Aleah Beckerle. When the jurors entered the courtroom the jurors announced their decision that would fill the courtroom and the hallway in the Court Building with tears, shouts and obscenities. Roach was found not guilty on all counts of murder and found guilty of criminal confinement and abuse of a corpse.

I'm joined tonight by Detective Brent Melton of the Evansville Police Department and Detective Melton was the lead investigator in this case. You told me last week you were devastated and your emotions were destroyed... tell me why this was such a personal ordeal for you.

Detective Melton: Well, I felt like that, uh, two years of my life had just, in an instant, went away. You know, the work and the dedication and uh, you know, it takes me back to the first time I met Aleah in June of 2016 on a shots fired run. And then, of course, when I realized she was abducted it became very personal – from day one it has.

 

Brad: And looking now at the evidence and in the eyes of the jurors who deliberated for several hours – you had the confession. You felt this was a slam dunk. Tell me why.  

 

Detective Melton: Brad, I can tell you that in my 22 years of doing this, I’ve never had a murder trial with this much evidence. It was astounding. We… we had the confession. He was interviewed by three different detectives, Detective Thiry, Detective Hands and myself over two different occasions. The second interview was entered into evidence because it summarized everything very well. But in those interviews, a detective doesn’t just get a confession and then just stop immediately. We spent hours clarifying what he said and going through details and listening for changes. That’s what you do as a detective to see if someone’s lying to you. You listen for changes and he never - once he felt compelled to tell the truth of what, this horrible thing he had done, he never changed his story. Never. Not once.

Brad: We all have instances where we say to ourselves, “Oh, I wish I had that moment back.” Let’s talk about the evidence at the original crime scene, not the scene on Bedford, where her remains were found.

Detective Melton: Okay.

Brad: The Beckerle home.

Detective Melton: 403 East Iowa, yes.

Brad: The bedroom – processing that window – in hindsight, what did you miss?

Detective Melton: Well, arriving the scene was so chaotic. So emotional, screams and we were trying to keep the family in one room.  I know the picture they’re showing now, that was the recreation later that Detective Hands and myself and crime scene did showing that it was capable, possible what Terrence said he did. But that day, when I entered her room, I remember looking at her windows. And I realized they appear to be locked. I remember the blinds being disturbed. But I just thought the blinds were messed up. You know, anyone’s house can have messed up blinds. I didn’t realize what it meant. We were concentrating our efforts on the back of the house because that made the most sense.  That was the back by the alley, by the backyard, the back, uh, bedroom, I’m sorry bathroom window was, was open. And that’s what we was concentrating our efforts in. I deeply regret not having crime scene process her bedroom window.

Brad: And it was kind of hiding in plain sight.

Detective Melton: It was. It was off to the side, it was a window that you just wouldn’t think somebody would go through. It just didn’t catch my attention. Again, when I glanced at it I thought it was locked.

Brad: Ironically, tragically, there is a photograph – if we can put this up – of Aleah. Now, this is the night that she was abducted. And as you can see she is lying on her pillow and this is in the bedroom, from what I understand. And why was this important in hindsight?

Detective Melton: She liked to lay on the left side of the bed, closest to that window because that’s where her stuffed animals were on her toy box. The window was right here. Directly beneath the window there was a toy box.

Brad: And that’s what the officer was leaning on.

Detective Melton: Yes. Yes. And then directly – there’s the bed. And she liked to lay on that side of the bed. Which is why it made it so easy for Terrance to lean through the window and physically pull her across that toy box. You know, I… after the first interview with Terrance, I wanted to wait and clarify some things later in the second interview, but in that time period between the two interviews, I studies the crime scene pictures and that’s when it really jumped out at me. Because I studied the pictures from June of 2016  when we actually had pictures Aleah lying in that same spot. Her grandmother, Lydia, comforting her.  And then I compared the pictures from July. And it… it jumped out at me oh, oh my Lord, that’s what I missed. There was the blinds, there was the bear mashed down, there was the signs that we just didn’t see.

Brad: Is it normal protocol to process the last known location of the victim? You were certain that this victim was taken through a bathroom window.

Melton: The bathroom window was the only window in the home that was open. The rest of them appeared to be locked. And that’s what we concentrated on first because that was the only window we could find that was open. In addition to that, the back door was a boat lock and we thought he could’ve went out the back door. We processed all of that. But what made this crime scene so unique is we were racing time. Thoughts were racing through our mind. Is she tied up?

Brad: At that point you thought she might still be alive.

Melton: Yeah. Every minute that you waste, we’re worrying about her obviously dying.

Brad: When you talk about he, when did Terrence Roach come on your radar?

Melton: Terrence Roach was first brought to my attention the night we found Aleah’s body down on south Bedford. His step father lived next door, approached, asked about what we were doing. We had the area crime scened off. And when he realized we were recovering a body he told me that he had put two and two together and Terrence had been at the house earlier that evening. When he realized that we found a body, Terrence said some suspicious things to him, and then left.

Brad: We’re talking about Demarco Roach?

Melton: No, I’m talking about.. I claim step father. It was a man that was dating Terrence’s mother. He was not involved in anything else in the case. But he lived next door, and Terrence stayed there with him off and on.

Brad: And back to the father, and he had lived with Cara Beckerle for 14 years. Terrence came into that house so frequently. His son…he never really mentioned his son?

Melton: Yes, I interviewed Demarco himself several times. As did detectives. And, not once did he tell us about his own son.

Brad: It’s very easy to look back. Aleah was in that attic for almost nine months. During the Thanksgiving holiday period, Christmas, going into spring, before her remains were found. There never was a time of death established. How did that hit you when you realized that she’s in this house, lying up there in the attic, and the accused murderer was right next door?

Melton: It was sickening. It made me sick to my stomach to think that she was there that whole time. You know, if we had never found her, that house could’ve been demolished later and her remains may have been in that debris. I’m thankful we did at least find her.

Brad: And the confession tapes are going to be released tomorrow by the courts. And among those tapes, the phone call he made to his mother. And, we were talking about that. He appeared more lucid in the conversation with mom, opposed to the way his demeanor was with you.

Melton: Yes. We I interviewed him over the numerous hours…He’s a very calculated young man when he talks. At least, to me he was. You ask him a question, you can tell he thinks about his answer, very calculated. But with his mother, on the phone, very different, very smooth, calm talking. And in those conversations, besides the confessions, he tells his mother the same identical facts. He never changes anything. His own mother even asked him if he acted alone and did you do this by yourself?

Brad: Would jurors have perceived that as man, that yes, took her, but really didn’t have anything to do with any intent of killing her. Did that phone call hurt the state’s case?

Melton: In my opinion, no, but I don’t know what the jury was thinking. I may never know. I feel like it was just more clarification that he was telling the truth. You’re more likely to tell your mother the truth than anybody else in the world. And the fact that he kept saying that he acted alone, to me told me a lot.

Brad: Well, a journalist up in Chicago said, “If you’re mother says she loves you, check it out.” It’s kind of an ironic comparison there. The hours that you put in on this case and when the deliberations kept going on and on, you told me you were concerned when the jury asked the court about committing the crime while committing a felony. Why did that bother you?

Melton: It told me that we had one, or several people in the jury, overthinking. Be too critical. We streamline the case presentation so much to focus just on the evidence. I felt like that maybe someone in that jury felt like they had a guy during the time period she was being taken out of the window, and that’s not the case. Any time from when he takes her out of the window to when she’s down on Bedford, is while committing it. So the whole act of a crime.

Brad: Time is not in our favor right now. The EPD says this case will not be reopened. Do you think there’s a possibility that someone will come forward?

Melton: If anyone comes forward, I believe one hundred percent, in my heart, that it will be more conspiracy theories, more theories that people made up on social media. I have no doubt that we found the man that did this. And he even gave us a motive, and how rare is that to have a motive in a murder.

Brad: What would you say to Aleah?

Melton: I would say, Aleah, I’m so sorry this happened to you. You are truly and innocent victim and this should never have happened to you. And I’m sorry we couldn’t get complete justice for you, Aleah. I would say that we got partial justice, we got something. But we didn’t get enough.

Brad: Detective Brent Melton, thank you for talking with us, and take care.


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