Convenience store owner confesses to editor's murder

Officials: Melvin Roberts gave voluntary statement

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

By Kelly Shackleton
Oxford Eagle

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials report that Melvin "Coach" Roberts, 66, has confessed to the murder of Oxford Eagle managing editor Monica Drum in the early morning hours of Nov. 25.

Roberts is the owner of Melvin's Nite Owl, a convenience store located at the intersection of Highway 30 East and North Lamar Avenue. The store, once a popular hangout for law enforcement in the area, has shown a steady decline in business in the last five years since Roberts was accused, and then acquitted, of rape in 2007.

Officials report that Roberts approached their office late yesterday and said that he had killed Drum because of a series of negative articles on him she wrote after his arrest and during his trial.

According to Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Jones, Roberts confessed that he had plotted for years to kill Drum because the articles ruined not only his personal reputation but also his business. According to a statement from Roberts released by Jones, Roberts believed that the articles "portrayed me as a rapist and I was innocent and I was found innocent."

Roberts was acquitted of raping a 16-year-old babysitter who was staying with Roberts's grandson while Roberts's wife, Candy, was out of town.

The babysitter identified Roberts as her attacker in a line-up, and he had three distinct scratches on his hands and a large bruise on his inner left thigh. Blood tests confirmed Roberts's blood type was consistent with blood found at the scene of the attack.

The case, which Yoknapatawpha County District Attorney R.J. Metcalf felt was ironclad, fell apart when Roberts was able to produce a timecard with a date and time stamp showing that he had been working in his store at the time of the attack. Testimony from another employee and several customers corroborated Roberts's story, and he was subsequently acquitted.

In 2008, officials arrested David Thomas, a neighbor of Roberts's who was a classmate of the girl and who occasionally did yard work for Roberts. Thomas served four-and-a-half years at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman for his part in the attack.

Melvin's Nite Owl has been for sale since 2009 due to the almost non-existent business at the store. Although located at a major intersection that divides the county and the city, many residents refuse to shop at the store because, as one resident of Oxford said when asked, "I think he did it, and I think he got away with it somehow. I'll never give him another penny."

Female residents have contacted police over the last few years claiming that Roberts "leers" at them when they go into his store.

Oxford Eagle city reporter Rick Hughes, who reportedly had a personal relationship with Drum in addition to their professional one, is still being sought for questioning as a potential witness in the case, Jones said.

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