Woman convicted in child's death still missing

Relates to:
Date: 2000-10-10

Jennifer Shubinski
El Paso Times

A 25-year-old woman still hadn't been found by authorities four days after a jury found her guilty of murdering a relative's child she had been raising.

Martha J. Melendez was not in court to hear the verdict Friday, and an arrest warrant for her is still in effect, District Attorney Jaime Esparza said.

"As soon as we found out she fled, we notified the Police Department and we are working on trying to find her," he said.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

Esparza said he will notify the FBI and U.S. Marshal's today to help in the search. He also said the district attorney's office will work with Mexican authorities to look for Melendez.

One year and a day after Melendez allegedly killed 20-month-old Breianna Melendez, a jury found the woman guilty of the first-degree felony.

Breianna died of injuries to the head, including a 7-inch skull fracture, prosecutors said. They also said the child was a relative's daughter from Mexico whom Melendez was raising as her own.

After a half hour of discussion, the jury of seven men and five women sentenced Martha Melendez to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after 30 years.

When Melendez, who was present during the trial, did not appear to hear the verdict, 346th District Court Judge Jose J. Baca reset her bond at $1 million.

Melendez had been out on a bond of $200,000 and had to wear a monitoring device as part of the bond. Her lawyer, Danny Mena, could not be reached for comment.

Melendez is only the second person in El Paso who was out of jail on a personal- recognizance bond and wearing a monitor to flee during trial, said Jesus Lechuga, supervisor of the pretrial-release program.

"(The monitoring device) doesn't tell us where she is at, just that she's not home," Lechuga said.

He said they will know the moment Melendez returns home - if she returns and if she is still wearing the device.

Jennifer Shubinski may be reached at jshubinski@elpasotimes.com

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