ShareThis Page
News

Suspect claims he didn't know dying mom was badly hurt

| Wednesday, March 10, 2004

PITTSBURGH: Michael Melendez told police he didn't mean to kill his mother and didn't know she was badly hurt when he left her bleeding on the floor of her West Deer home in August 2002.

Melendez, 36, is on trial for homicide in the stabbing death of his mother, Linda Melendez, before Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning this week.

"It's not like I would want to kill my mother, but there was just this altercation," Melendez told police.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played a tape of a rambling and contradictory statement Melendez made to county police hours after Linda Melendez, 56, was found dying of 34 stab wounds at her home on Little Deer Creek Valley Road.

Melendez told police his mother stabbed herself accidentally after coming at him with a knife. Linda Melendez was suicidal and crazy to get more drugs, he said. She lunged at him with the kitchen knife to begin the fatal struggle, Melendez told county police.

"I went to grab the thing, she fell back, there was blood everywhere and I panicked. I mean, it's my mother."

Melendez said he tried to pull the knife out of his mother's body.

"Next thing I knew, it was in her again," he said.

Later on the tape, Melendez said he never tried to pull the knife from his mother and that he didn't think she'd been badly hurt because there wasn't much blood.

"I thought she was totally fine because there wasn't that much blood and she was laying on the floor, screaming," he said.

Forensic pathologist Bennett Omalu, who performed an autopsy for the county coroner's office, testified Linda Melendez suffered more than 30 stab wounds to her chest, arms and hands. An 11-centimeter deep stab wound that cut a large vein in her chest probably killed her, he said.

"With penetration and laceration of that vein, the victim sustained 3.5 liters of internal bleeding," Omalu said. "This was probably the fatal wound."

Linda Melendez had about 16 defensive stab wounds on her arms and hands that showed she tried to fight off an attacker who was stabbing her from above -- probably while she was lying on the floor, Omalu said.

Melendez asked to leave the courtroom during Omalu's testimony because seeing diagrams and photos of his mother's injuries would be too upsetting.

Manning allowed him to leave, but warned that missing part of the trial might jeopardize any appeal he might make based on ineffective counsel.

Though toxicology tests showed Linda Melendez did not have any cocaine or heroin in her system, she had taken fentanyl (the drug in Duragesic patches she abused), ephedrine and a psychiatric drug, Omalu said. The combination of these drugs likely sedated her, he said.

On the tape, Melendez said the fatal fight began when he and his mother were arguing over drugs. Both were suffering withdrawal, but Linda Melendez had refused to share her Duragesic patch and he had refused to share his heroin, Melendez told the police.

"It's supposed to be if I get heroin, I help you and if you get patches you help me," he said. "We help each other until we get into a methadone clinic."

Melendez fled the scene in his mother's car, dropped his children off at a friend's house in New Kensington, and then just drove around until police spotted him along Route 8 in Hampton Township.

Police officers from Hampton and Shaler testified they chased Melendez south on Route 8 until he crashed his car in Shaler. Melendez begged officers to shoot him and acted as if he was slashing his throat with a knife, they said.

However, Melendez was using the blunt, back of the knife, not the blade, to slash at his neck and did not hurt himself, officers said. They used pepper spray to subdue Melendez.

Police took Melendez to the Allegheny County Police headquarters where they said it was his 14-year-old daughter, Nichole, who told him that his mother had died.

"She said, 'Nanna's dead,'" Shaler officer Regis Smith testified. "He said, 'Is she?' and the girl said, 'Yeah.'"

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Beemer rested his case Tuesday afternoon.

Defense attorney Kathleen Cribbins is expected to begin her case today, calling a psychiatrist as part of the insanity defense she plans.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me