A Groveton man faces three consecutive prison terms totaling 130 years following a sentencing hearing in Trinity County Tuesday. A jury convicted Jeffie Melder, 35, of aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual performance by a child, and indecency with a child.
According to Trinity County District Attorney's Office Investigator Travis Haygood, Jeffie Melder was with his wife when they brought an eight-year-old boy into the room, and they both had sex with him.
"With the witnesses we had and the
statements from the victim, it was just overwhelming evidence we had
against him," District Attorney Joe Ned Dean said. "And no problem outside of his confession."
District Judge Robert Hill Trapp issued the sentencing. Melder received prison sentences of 60 years each for the aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual performance of a child charges, along with a 10-year term for the indecency with a child charge. At the sentencing trial Trapp also stated that Jeffie Melder will not be eligible for parole until Oct. 16, 2077.
Even though the child was not in the courtroom Tuesday, there was plenty of support for him.
Debbie McCall of Kalin's Center says that even though her organization did not
have direct contact with this case, she felt it was important to show
"We were here not only to not only support the district
attorney and to see justice done, but we were here to support the family
and be an advocate," McCall said.
During the sentencing hearing, it was revealed that Jeffie Melder's wife, Shelly Melder, also took part in the sexual assault. However, because she was forced to do so, she accepted a plea bargain to serve 10 years in exchange for her testimony against her husband. Her sentencing will be finalized at a later date.
Haygood said Groveton Police began the investigation after Melder called an 800 hotline to report the crime, without trying to implicate himself. Haygood said Melder learned his wife, Shelly Melder, 31, had told another woman about the incident, so he attempted to get ahead and turn her in before she could turn him in.
Lufkin Police assisted in a computer forensics investigation. That is when Haygood learned that while Melder worked on a tugboat overseas, his wife would have men and women over to her house so she could have sex with them and livestream it for him on the boat.
After Melder was arrested in November, the victim was taken to a child advocacy center in Texarkana for a forensic interview and counseling. The counselor testified in the trial that the child was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
Acting Groveton Police Chief Reggie Olive, CPS Investigator Cali Little, Nurse Kendra Dewberry, Haygood and others also testified in the trial. The child gave testimony through a pre-recorded video.
Trapp began the sentencing phase of the trial and heard evidence from two of Melder's cousins, who said Melder had done sexually inappropriate things to them several years earlier.
Haygood said Shelly Melder agreed to plead guilty in exchange for her own testimony in the trial. He said the plea includes prison time. Her formal plea announcement will come at a later date.
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