Asbury Park resident sentenced for role in 2009 murder of Red Bank teacher

An Asbury Park man was sentenced to life in prison with an additional 20 years incarcerated for his role in the 2009 killing of Red Bank Middle School teacher Jonelle Melton who was found dead in her Neptune City apartment.

Gregory A. Jean-Baptiste, 30, of Asbury Park, was also sentenced to life in a New Jersey State Prison, plus an additional 20 years, for witness tampering that will run consecutively to the life imprisonment charge, according to information provided by Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni on May 30.

Upon release, Jean-Baptiste would also be subject to parole supervision for five years.

Jean-Baptiste is already serving a sentence for a prior conviction in which he received 25 years in prison. The judge ordered that this sentence run consecutive to the sentence Jean-Baptiste is already serving, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Jean-Baptiste, along with Ebenezer Byrd, 39, of Asbury Park, and Jerry J. Spraulding, 41, of Keansburg, were each found guilty on all counts, on March 12, 2019, in connection with the Sept. 14, 2009, murder of 33-year-old Melton, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The three men were 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, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

Additionally, Byrd and Jean-Baptiste were found guilty of first degree witness tampering. Byrd and Spraulding were convicted of second degree certain persons not to possess weapons due to prior convictions involving a weapon, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

Spraulding was sentenced to life in prison on May 23 and Byrd is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6.

Melton was a veteran school teacher at Red Bank Middle School when she was killed inside her Neptune City apartment. She was an active member of the school community, serving as a member of the School Improvement Team, the Leadership Program at Red Bank Regional High School, and selected to serve as a Student Council Advisor, according to the prosecutor’s office.

As a result of that investigation, detectives learned that Byrd, Jean-Baptiste, Spraulding, and a fourth defendant, James Fair, planned to burglarize a specific apartment in the Brighton Arms complex, according to the prosecutor’s office. 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 Melton, officials said.

Fair is serving an 82-year prison term in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton as part of 78 crimes he was convicted of committing in the summer of 2017, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Following that conviction, he pleaded guilty on Nov. 2, 2017, to his role in the murder of Melton. He was sentenced on Dec. 21, 2017, and is eligible for release no earlier than Jan. 3, 2065, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Matthew Bogner and Lawrence Nelsen.  

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