Murderer Details Crime to ABC News

For the First Time, Georgia Inmate Admits Killing 19-Year-Old

ByABC News
July 17, 2006, 8:46 AM

REIDSVILLE, Ga., July 17, 2006 — -- In brutally specific detail, his pale hands trembling, a Georgia inmate admitted Monday for the first time that he kidnapped and raped a 19-year-old college student in 1994, then strangled her with a necktie as she lay handcuffed to a bedpost and burned her body in a bonfire in his backyard.

"I can't live like this no more," Colvin "Butch'' Hinton told a Georgia prosecutor and the detective who led the investigation into the murder of Shannon Melendi, at a jailhouse meeting at Georgia State Prison attended by ABC News' Law & Justice Unit.

"If I have to stay in a cell for 23 hours a day for the rest of my life, at least I can breathe,'' Hinton said. "She can't.''

"The prison that I am in is no comparison to the prison inside of me,'' Hinton, 45, said a few minutes later.

Luis Melendi, Shannon's father, who fought for more than a decade to see his daughter's killer charged, turned his ire on the police.

"He is a more professional criminal than the police are professional policemen,'' Melendi told ABC News. "He killed her and burned her body in the backyard? The police were out there and they could not find a trace of my daughter. I don't believe that. I'm sitting here, and I don't believe that."

Melendi, who has long criticized the police who investigated the case, had little to say about Hinton, who wasn't charged with the murder until 2004.

"He destroyed my family,'' Melendi said.

Hinton was the first defendant in Georgia history to be convicted of murder without a body or a crime scene. But it took law enforcement officials a decade to build a strong enough case.

Until Monday's jailhouse meeting, Hinton had steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder. When his final appeal was rejected last month by the Georgia Supreme Court, he said, he broke down and confessed to his father during a prison visit.

Hinton said he had planned to rape another woman that day, but she'd refused to meet with him. He said he met Melendi for the first time at a softball game where she was the scorekeeper and he was the home plate umpire.

He said he invited her to lunch and she agreed. They ate at a local Burger King. As they were driving in his car back to the softball field, Hinton said he faked a wrong turn, pulled onto a state highway and headed for his home in nearby Rex, Ga. Then, he said, he faked a leg cramp and asked Melendi to drive.

Hinton climbed into the backseat where he had a knife hidden under the floorboard. He held it to her and forced her to drive to his home.

"What are you doing?'' she asked him.

"Don't argue, just drive,'' he told her.

He said he tied Melendi up, convincing her that he simply wanted to steal her car, and that she'd be released unharmed as soon as he could sell it. Throughout the ordeal, he said, he would leave Melendi tied up and go downstairs to make phone calls -- to his wife, his relatives and friends -- in order to establish an alibi.

Hinton then went back to the softball field and drove Melendi's car to a gas station parking lot, where he left the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, hoping someone would steal the car and throw police off his trail.

He returned to his home, untied Melendi and raped her -- a process he would repeat that night, he said.

After the attack, Hinton handcuffed her, face down on the floor, to a bedpost.

"I was trying to ask her if she needed or wanted anything,'' he said, adding, "I am sitting there trying to think. ... 'I am already into this thing,'" he told himself.

"You want the radio on?'' he said he asked asked her.

"Yeah,'' she replied calmly.

"What station?"

Hinton said he recalls Melendi asked for 97.1 FM, a local rock station, and he left to see the movie "Mighty Ducks'' with his niece and nephew and the children's parents.

After the movie, he returned home around 10:30 p.m. to find Melendi where he'd left her. He said he was becoming increasingly frightened about what he'd done.

Hinton said Melendi was calm and cooperative throughout and never once lost control of her emotions, even during the attacks.

"She didn't ever try to scratch -- no hitting," he said. "I kept telling her, 'As soon as I get your car sold or rid of, I will let you go,' and she said 'All right.'''

"I raped her around 11, 11:30, then I started thinking ... what am I going to do?''

He went to bed.

"About two in the morning, I came out of my bedroom. ... I stood at my bedroom door. ... I saw she was laying there [on the guest room floor]. ... I stood there staring, thinking about how I was going to take her life,'' he said.