Killer of beloved middle school teacher to spend rest of his life behind bars

New Jersey
5/31/2019 11:28 AM   

An Asbury Park man who was one of three burglars who broke into the wrong apartment and murdered a teacher was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Gregory A. Jean-Baptiste, 30, of Asbury Park, was convicted by a jury in March of first-degree felony murder and robbery, second-degree conspiracy, burglary and weapons charges for his role in the 2009 murder of Red Bank Middle School teacher Jonelle Melton at her Neptune City apartment, according to a release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Neptune City Police were called to the Brighton Arms complex in Neptune City shortly after 9 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2009 and found the 33-year-old Melton dead inside her apartment.

The police and prosecutor’s office joined forces and for six years they worked to find out who killed Melton, who also worked on the School Improvement Team, coached dance and cheerleading, advised the yearbook, worked on the leadership program at Red Bank Regional High School, and was preparing to become the student council adviser, officials said.

They eventually discovered that Jean-Baptiste, Ebenezer Byrd, 39, of Asbury Park, and Jerry J. Spraulding, 41, of Keansburg and a fourth man James Fair, 30, planned to burglarize a specific apartment in the Brighton Arms complex, authorities said.

However, the men broke into the wrong apartment and encountered the victim. At some point after realizing they were in the wrong apartment, the men brutally murdered Ms. Melton.

Byrd and Spraulding were all found guilty on the same counts as Jean-Baptiste on March 12.

Spraulding was sentenced to life in prison on May 23, and Byrd was scheduled to be sentenced on June 6, at 9 a.m.

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