Prosecutor: Man Gets Life Plus 20 for Role in 2009 Red Bank Teacher’s Murder

Another Monmouth County man has been sentenced for his role in the 2009 murder of Red Bank Middle School Teacher Jonelle Melton, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced on Thursday.

Gregory A. Jean-Baptiste, 30, of Asbury Park, was sentenced to life in a New Jersey state prison, plus an additional 20 years for witness tampering that will run consecutively with the life imprisonment charge.

Jean-Baptiste is already serving a lengthy sentence for a prior conviction for which he received 25 years in prison, and the judge ordered that this sentence run consecutive to the sentence Jean-Baptiste is already serving. 

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 in connection with the Sept. 14, 2009 murder of 33-year-old Melton.

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. Byrd and Jean-Baptiste were also found guilty of first-degree witness tampering. Byrd and Spaulding were convicted of second-degree certain persons not to possess weapons due to prior convictions involving a weapon.

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

The case background …

Jonelle Melton was a beloved, veteran school teacher at Red Bank Middle School when she was brutally 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. 

Melton was also an active member of the Christian Women’s Encouragement Group, and prior to her death was scheduled to officially become a member of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Lake Como during its annual Woman’s Day celebration.

The Neptune City Police Department received a 911 call at 9:07 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2009, reporting the discovery of unresponsive woman in an apartment in the Brighton Arms complex, 311 West Sylvania Ave. in the borough.  Officers arrived on scene and found the victim, 33-year-old Jonelle Melton, inside of the apartment. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced Melton dead. 

A joint investigation was launched by the Neptune City Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation continued over the course of more than six years. The case was one of the first cases to use the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line and reward program. 

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. 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 murdered Melton.

Fair is serving an 82-year prison term in New Jersey state prison in Trenton 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 sentenced by Judge Joseph Oxley on Dec. 21, 2017 and is eligible for release no earlier than Jan. 3, 2065.

— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office