Monday, July 15, 2019

Nite Owl owner confesses to editor's shooting

Suspect claims Drum's press coverage ruined his reputation and destroyed his business

Convenience store entrance with photo inset of an older man with white hair, mustache and beardThis evening, Melvin "Coach" Roberts, 66, has confessed to the murder of Oxford Eagle managing editor Monica Drum, Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials said.

Roberts turned himself in at the Sheriff's Department, saying he killed Drum because of a series of negative articles she wrote about him after his arrest five years ago.

Who is Melvin Roberts?

Roberts is the owner of Melvin's Nite Owl, a convenience store located at the intersection of Highway 30 East and North Lamar Avenue.

Once a popular hangout for law enforcement in the area, the store has shown a steady decline in business since 2014 when Roberts was accused of raping his grandson's 16-year-old babysitter.

He was acquitted at trial when he produced evidence and witnesses showing he was working at the time of the alleged assault. But the publicity surrounding the case literally destroyed his store.

Now Melvin’s Nite Owl is but a hulking shell of its former glory, and it has been for sale since 2016 due to the almost non-existent business at the store. Many locals refuse to shop at Melvin’s. As one resident said when asked, "I think he did it, and I think he got away with it somehow. I'll never give him another penny."

An employee we spoke with late today reported she'd had six paying customers since 7:00 a.m. and said she expects the place to close any day.

Roberts is being held without bond at the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center, pending further investigation.

"The investigation at this time is centered around Mr. Roberts due to his confession. However, we need a lot more evidence before we start talking about a conviction,” Sheriff's Department spokesperson Elizabeth Jones said. “Given Mr. Roberts's past troubles with the legal process, we must proceed carefully with what he has told us and how we act on it."

Now what?

Despite the confession, detectives apparently still want to talk to Rick Hughes, the paper's city reporter who had a tumultuous relationship with Drum. Maybe they're not confident that Roberts is their man.

Hughes spoke to the Crime Beat from an undisclosed location.

"I can't believe that they might think I would kill someone, especially Monica. At one point, I was in love with her. I would never hurt her. She got on my nerves, sure, but that happens with everyone. I'm not going to be anyone's scapegoat. I know that."

Hughes added that, in light of this confession by Roberts, he expects the persecution and gossip about him and his relationship with Drum to stop.

Hughes has retained prominent Oxford defense attorney Mark McGhee, who had stern words for investigators.

“This is not over. The sheriff's department must make a statement clearing my client. Their insinuations that he could have had any involvement in the brutal murder of someone he cared about borders on slander. We will be exploring our options for redress if Mr. Hughes is not immediately exonerated publicly the same way he was erroneously implicated."

Sheriff's department officials did not return phone calls requesting comments on Roberts's arrest and on Hughes and McGhee's statements.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

By Kemper Jones at 7:35 PM

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