Murderer Details Crime to ABC News

The day before her disappearance, Hinton told his boss at the softball complex that he'd need to leave early on Saturday. Family problems. Police learned only later that it was a lie.

Hinton's interest in Melendi was apparent to others. One of the pitchers at the softball game later testified at Hinton's trial that the umpire "wouldn't pay attention to me while I was pitching.''

"I would throw a pitch, and then midstride he would turn around and look at the scorekeeper behind the fence,'' Jerry Chastain testified, according to court transcripts.

"It was like he was obsessed with her," Chastain said. "He went to her between innings. He went to her while I was pitching. He was interested in her more than he was the ballgame."

According to Bernstein, Hinton's attorney, his criminal record extends back several decades. He was charged in Kentucky in 1977 with criminal attempt to commit rape after he and his brother attempted to kidnap their boss' wife. The case was handled in juvenile court, and he received counseling.

Then in Illinois in 1982, he pleaded "guilty but mentally ill" to charges of unlawful restraint and indecent liberties with a child for kidnapping Tammy Singleton, a 14-year-old who was dating his brother.

Bernstein said that after convincing the girl to meet him at a cemetery with a ruse about lottery winnings, Hinton abducted her, put her in his car and tied her up in his basement before attempting to sexually assault her. She was freed when Hinton's first wife walked in and heard her screams, and they took her to their pastor. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Hinton served two years in prison for assault. And there were other alleged assaults on women.

The Hunt for Evidence

Mistakes were made in the handling of the Melendi case, it was revealed in court. Police hadn't swept Melendi's car for fingerprints -- they'd asked her roommate to drive it back to campus instead.

The March 26 security camera videotapes from the Citgo station had been erased by the time authorities got to them. After initially claiming she'd seen Melendi that day, the store clerk changed her story and then changed it again.

When an FBI agent unraveled the ring from the masking-taped bag, he didn't wear gloves, he acknowledged in court.

And there was bad luck. No recording devices were available at the counseling center to record the caller's voice. Had there been, police could have quickly arrested Hinton.

But there was evidence that implicated Hinton. Melendi's topaz ring was discovered near Rex, Ga., where Hinton lived, near a Waffle House he was seen in regularly.

The cloth bag authorities found the ring in was unique to Delta Airlines, where he worked in the machine shop. Metals particles found on the masking tape were unique to the industry. The type of tape matched nine rolls found at Hinton's home.

Prosecutors continued to pursue the Hinton leads while he sat in prison for arson and insurance fraud and after his release in 2003. In 2004, using electron microscopes, they located microscopic specks of metal and matched them to Hinton's Delta Airlines workplace.

Prosecutors located five jailhouse informants who testified in 2005 -- more than a decade after Melendi's disappearance -- that Hinton had repeatedly implicated himself in her murder.

A jury convicted Hinton of the murder of Shannon Melendi in September 2005. He was sentenced to life in prison. Without a body or a crime scene, prosecutors were reluctant to seek the death penalty.

Hinton, 45, will be eligible for parole in 2019, when he is 58. He appealed the conviction all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, where it was rejected last month.

Geary, the prosecutor, said he was gratified to see that "without a body, without a murder scene, the case put together was so factually accurate.''

He added, "It's a testament to the hard work, diligence and professionalism of Georgia law enforcement and the FBI."

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