Questions Remain 30 Years After Grisly Murders Of Three Teenagers

By: Paul J. Gately Email
By: Paul J. Gately Email

WACO (July 13, 2012)--On the 30th anniversary of the grisly Lake Waco triple murders Friday, one local attorney is continuing his fight to clear the only living person connected to the killings.

Walter M. "Skip" Reaves said Friday he is taking his fight to obtain DNA evidence from the 1982 murders to courts in California, where evidence from the crime scene was sent decades ago.

Reaves is representing Anthony Melendez, 52, the last surviving defendant in the case, and has been fighting for 10 years to find a way to clear his client's name.

On Jan. 6 a Waco district judge cleared the way for Reaves to proceed with an effort to have further DNA tests performed on evidence collected during the investigation of the slayings of three teenagers.

Reaves and author Fredric Dannen arranged on their own for a private lab in California to do DNA testing, but that lab now refuses to allow them to transfer testing to another facility where different methods could produce better results.

Lab owners Allen Keel and Ted Blake had been subpoenaed to testify in the January hearing but neither showed up, Reaves said.

Judge Matt Johnson issued an order of attachment for both men who failed to show up but unless one or both of them return to the court's jurisdiction, that order can't be enforced.

On Friday Reaves said the reason behind the lab's refusal to turn over evidence is "a million-dollar question."

Reaves said more money, perhaps as much as $40,000 more, might convince the lab to turn over the evidence they have.

Reaves has said he hopes the evidence will ultimately clear Melendez and perhaps identify the real killer.

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.


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