Third Man Receives Life in Prison For 2009 Murder

Ebenezer Byrd (Photo courtesy Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

  FREEHOLD – An Asbury Park man has been sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years for the 2009 murder of Red Bank Middle School teacher Jonelle Melton in her Neptune City apartment, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

  On June 6, 39-year old Ebenezer Byrd was sentenced to life in prison by the Honorable Judge Joseph W. Oxley, plus two additional 20 year sentences for Witness Tampering that will run consecutively to the life imprisonment charge. This sentence is in addition to the sentence Byrd is currently serving for Attempted Murder that arose out of an unrelated shooting in October 2009.

  On March 12, 2019, Byrd, 30-year old Gregory Jean-Baptiste of Asbury Park, and 41-year old Jerry J. Spraulding of Keansburg, were each found guilty on all counts in connection with the 2009 murder. They were all found guilty of first degree Felony Murder, first degree Robbery, second degree Conspiracy, second degree Burglary, second degree Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, and second degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon.

  Byrd and Jean-Baptiste were also found guilty of first degree Witness Tampering. Byrd and Spraulding were also convicted of second degree Certain Persons Not to Possess Weapons due to prior convictions involving a weapon.

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  Spraulding was sentenced to life in prison on May 23, 2019 and Jean-Baptiste was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years by Judge Oxley on May 30, 2019. Byrd is the last to be sentenced.

  According to authorities, Neptune City Police responded to a 911 call on September 14, 2009 where they discovered 33-year old Melton inside her apartment in the Brighton Arms complex in Neptune City. Paramedics pronounced Melton dead at the scene.

  An investigation by the Neptune City Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, over the course of six years, discovered that Byrd, Jean-Baptiste, Spraulding, and a fourth defendant, James Fair, planned to burglarize a specific apartment in the Brighton Arms complex, but when they realized they broke into wrong apartment, the men brutally murdered Melton.

  Fair is serving an 82-year prison term as part of a long list of 78 crimes he was convicted of committing in the summer of 2017. Following that conviction, he pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2017 to his role in the murder of Jonelle Melton. He was sentence by Judge Oxley on Dec. 21, 2017 and is eligible for release no earlier than Jan. 3, 2065.

  Authorities recall Melton as a “beloved, veteran school teacher at Red Bank Middle School…an active member of the school community.”