Cold Case Results in 30 Years of Prison Time

After nearly a decade, Arthaniel Staton, was sentenced to jail time, after being indicted in 2014 for the murder of 29-year-old Melanie Lovelace on Nov. 29, 2006.

Two years after his conviction, Staton went before Lee County Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes on Wednesday for sentencing. He received 30 years in prison, has to pay 750 dollars invictim’s compensation to the Lovelace family, and 24 additional jail credits.

 

Since Staton was indicted on a charge of theft of property in 1988, deciding whether he was a habitual offender influenced the ruling. Elijah Beaver, Staton’s attorney, argued that because hisfelony was 18 years ago at the time of the murder, the habitual offender issue should not be considered.

He said that Staton demonstrated, in the time before the murder, that he could be a productive member of society. Ultimately, the judge followed the guidelines recommended for habitual offenders to give his verdict.

In 2007 the grand jury was not able to reach a decision with the evidence they were presented; however, with the efforts of Opelika Police Sgt. Alfred White, the cold case was reopened in 2014 and this time, Staton was convicted for the murder.

Lovelace was found stabbed to death on the bedroom floor of her home by her then 11-year-old son, Robert Winston. Winston was re-interviewed in the 2014 trial along with a new witness, Quinique Wilkerson, who lived next door to Lovelace.

Wilkerson testified that on the day Lovelace was murder, she witnessed the victim arguing with someone in a blue Plymouth Horizon, the same model that Staton drove.

The main piece of evidence presented in 2007 was Staton’s blood found in Lovelace’s house.Staton’s ex-wife, Barbara Wilson, then separated, testified that Staton cut his hand repairing a car before Lovelace was killed.

Other than this and the re-interviewing of the witnesses during trial, Staton’s lawyer Beaver saidhe didn’t know of any new evidence that lead to Staton’s conviction in 2014.

According to Beaver, there were more people who should have been interviewed as suspects for the murder. He said that there were several teenage boys and men around Lovelace’s home when she was murdered, but no eye-witnesses to testify to that.

 

The 30-year sentence for Staton was concerning for Beaver partially because of Staton’s poorhealth. The now 60-year-old man is undergoing dialysis and has several other issues according to Beaver.

“Any sentencing in this kind of case likely means he’s sitting in prison until he passes away,”said Beaver.

“We’re planning to appeal the underlying case. You know, no sentence is a good sentence if youdon’t think you are guilty of the offense. We do think we have some issues that are appealable,”said Beaver.

Going forward, Beaver plans to file an appeal with one of his main points being that no one else was interviewed as a suspect for the murder.