April 11, 2018

Parents should not have to endure the murder of their daughter. Shannon Melendi was South Florida’s daughter in many ways. Will you sign the petition to help keep her convicted killer behind bars?

Shannon represented the potential we see in every child born into this community. Her achievements are the successes of which we tell all students they are capable. Shannon and her parents have a special place in my heart because of their connection to my alma mater, Southwest Miami Senior High School. She was a scholar who was in the top 3 percent of her class, captain of her high school debate team for three years, a member of the National Honor Society, a member of the Legal Eagles pre-law club, and junior and senior class president. She was an athlete beloved by her teammates, who knew her as a leader among her peers, and spoke before the U.S. Congress and United Nations. Shannon had the world and its limitless possibilities before her. Shannon turned down offers from colleges around our country to attend Emory University in Atlanta on a scholarship, where she majored in political science and Spanish. As a freshman in college, she worked at the Jimmy Carter Center and was a scorekeeper at softball games.

This bright future had every sign of continuing. Her dream was to go to law school, join the Navy, become a Judge Advocate General officer, where she would hone her advocacy skills, and later become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. A child like Shannon would have made any parent proud. She was the example of what a life full of promise, conviction, hard work and happiness is capable of producing. Shannon Melendi was South Florida at its best.

Her killer, Colvin “Butch” Hinton III, is humanity at its worst. Long before he met Shannon, Hinton, a sex offender, had a criminal record that demonstrated his proclivity for evil. At age 16, he assaulted a young woman. Due to his status as a juvenile, he received counseling. Later in his life, he kidnapped a 14-year-old girl who he tied up in his basement. A more heinous crime was likely stopped because Hinton’s wife walked in when the girl was screaming. Subsequently, Hinton was charged with kidnapping and served two years of a four-year sentence. Other reports of assault also surfaced, but Hinton faced no legal consequence.

Tragically, the paths of this convicted murderer and young, talented Shannon Melendi would collide. In Atlanta, Shannon was a scorekeeper for local softball games in order to make money to pay costs throughout college. Hinton, an umpire, was obsessed with Shannon. On the day of Shannon’s abduction, Hinton invited her to eat at a local Burger King and faked a leg cramp in order to get her to drive his car. She agreed and he then pulled a knife from the back seat, threatening Shannon. Hinton forced Shannon to drive to his home, tied her up, and left her tied up for hours. Over the several hours that would follow, Hinton raped Shannon multiple times and then murdered her. He then burned her body and disposed of evidence linking him to the crime. Devoid of any moral conscience, he gave one of Shannon’s rings to his wife.

Years later, Hinton was tried and convicted for the murder of Shannon Melendi. He was sentenced to life in prison and is the only person in Georgia history to be convicted of the charge without a body or crime scene. However, under Georgia law, this murderer is up for parole every seven years. In 2011, my office helped organize a successful petition drive that prevented him from receiving a hearing before the parole board. It is now seven years later, and, sadly, our community must again be Shannon’s voice to prevent this heinous murderer from again walking the streets of any community.

Shannon needs South Florida’s help to keep this killer in prison. The Melendi family is hosting a petition drive online so that individuals can send the state of Georgia a petition asking it to deny a parole hearing to this monster. You can make a difference. Sign the petition today (melendiphotography.com/petition_to_deny_parole1.htm) to let the parole board know that our voices are raised for this victim of a terrible crime. Our community’s goal should again be what it was the day she was reported missing: obtaining justice for Shannon.

 

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 27th Congressional District of Florida