WACO (September 26, 2012)-A local judge has set a hearing date in the search for what might be new evidence in a 30-year-old triple murder case that could result in the last living defendant being freed from state prison.
Judge Matt Johnson set Nov. 16 as the date for California scientist Alan Keel to appear in the 54th State District Court in Waco in a defense effort to have Keel turn over evidence the might led to freedom for Anthony Melendez, the last living defendant in the 1982 Lake Waco triple murder case.
Melendez, 53, and his Waco attorney, Walter S. "Skip" Reaves, are hopeful that Johnson will order Keel to turn over new evidence that he says was discovered by the California laboratory that Keel owned.
On Sept. 18 Contra Costa California Superior Court Judge Diana Becton ordered Keel to appear in Waco's 54th State District Court for a hearing after a contempt of court hearing that was held after Keel ignored a subpoena to appear in Waco last March.
Reaves, working through San Francisco attorney Mark Vermeulen, asked Becton to order Keel to send all remaining evidence to him via overnight mail.
Becton didn't grant that request, but did order Keel to come to Waco to testify in the hearing and to bring with him whatever evidence Johnson orders.
Keel, who represented himself, told the judge he would comply with the order, depending on what Johnson orders him to bring.
The judge told Keel that Johnson could specify what Keel should bring and said if Keel defied that order, he would do so at his own peril because he would be in Johnson's jurisdiction and at his discretion.
Keel said, as he has before, that he could not comply with Reaves' request for additional information until he is paid an additional $15,000 to $20,000.
But Reaves said he already has paid the lab in excess of $35,000 and already is entitled to whatever additional information Keel has.
Vermeulen said he was pleased with the outcome of the hearing, during which he said Becton sternly admonished Keel to take her ruling seriously and to adhere to any instruction that the Waco court gave him.
Reaves, meanwhile, said the outcome of the hearing must be considered at least a partial victory.
"I think its positive. I am glad to know there is a judge in California that will uphold the issues presented by a Texas court," he said.
Melendez was one of four men charged in the July 13, 1982 murders of Raylene Rice, 17, Jill Montgomery, 17, and Kenneth Franks, 18, in what prosecutors say was a murder-for-hire scheme gone wrong.
Fishermen found the bodies of the three teenagers the next day at Speegleville Park on Lake Waco.
They had been stabbed repeatedly and the two girls had been raped.
Melendez and his brother Gilbert were sentenced to two life terms after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the murders.
Gilbert Melendez died in prison in October 1998.
David Wayne Spence, who prosecutors said was hired by Waco storeowner Muneer Mohammad Deeb to kill a female employee, Gayle Kelley, in order to collect on her insurance policy, but who mistook Montgomery for the woman and killed her and the other two teenagers in a case of mistaken identity, was executed in April 1997.
Spence was twice convicted of capital murder in trials in 1984 in Waco and the next year in Bryan.
After the first trial, the Melendez brothers agreed to a plea deal that would spare them from the death penalty in exchange for their testimony against Spence in the second trial.
They both later said they had nothing to do with the murders of the teenagers and pleaded guilty because they believed they would have been sentenced to death if they had gone to trial.
Deeb was also convicted and sentenced to death, but won a new trial and was acquitted in 1993.
He died in Dallas County in November 1999.