A father from Milo pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Monday for the murder of his 1-month-old son, which means he faces 25 years in state prison. Two days after his son Sylus died from various blunt-force injuries on August 31, 2021, Reginald Melvin, then 30 years old, was charged with depraved indifference murder.
A clerk at the Piscataquis County Superior Court confirmed that Melvin pled guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter just days before his trial was set to begin. Melvin has agreed to a sentence of 30 years in prison, with 25 of those years suspended and six years of probation. According to his lawyer, Jeffrey Toothaker, the terms of his probation are still up in the air.
On Wednesday, Justice Bruce Mallonee of the Superior Court will review the plea deal and issue the sentencing. A representative for the Office of the Maine Attorney General said Thursday that Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who prosecuted the case, was unavailable to comment on the decision to reduce Melvin’s charge to manslaughter.
There was a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for the murder charge. There is no floor for manslaughter sentences. On August 29, 2021, Sylus passed away. Melvin was arrested after Sylus’s mother claimed in an affidavit that she woke up to discover Melvin carrying the infant, who was cold and lifeless.
The Office of Youngsters and Family Services reported his death as one of almost two dozen youngsters that year. Melvin was one of four parents who were charged with crimes and whose OCFS records were requested by state legislators last year.
A clerk for the Penobscot County Superior Court said that in the other cases, Jessica Trefethen was found guilty of depraved indifference murder in October and sentenced to 47 years in prison in December; Hillary Goding pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September for her daughter’s overdose death and was sentenced to 26 years in November with all but 19 years suspended; and Ronald Harding was found guilty of manslaughter on March 2 and is scheduled to be sentenced
After Trefethen and Goding were sentenced, the Office of Children and Family Services shared documentation of its interactions with the state’s watchdog body, the Office of Program Evaluation and Accountability. Spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Jackie Farwell indicated that after Melvin’s sentencing, a memo detailing Children and Family Services’ engagement with him would be made public.
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The affidavit provided by Maine State authorities Detective Andrew Peirson states that on the day Sylus was killed, Desiree Newbert told authorities that Melvin had a history of domestic violence and threatening their family. According to Newbert, Sylus was born in July 2021 while Melvin made a genocidal threat on the family.
Newbert claims she tried to call the police when Melvin punched her in the face and choked her a week before Sylus’ death. She called a regular number and was instructed to dial 911 instead, she said. Melvin grabbed her phone before the second call could go through. The affidavit claims that the police did not arrive at the scene.
According to the results of a background check conducted by the Maine State Bureau of Identification in 2013, Melvin has a history of arrests and convictions for domestic violence and protection order violations. According to the affidavit, Newbert was immediately suspicious of Melvin and questioned him in front of police about Sylus’ eye injuries and why her makeup bag was open.
Because of what he said in the hospital, she had previously warned Melvin away from the baby. “She specifically stated that she has told Reginald not to do his care because, ‘He doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing,’ ” Peirson wrote. Melvin denied injuring Sylus, who was described as having a cut on his right cheek and a bruise beneath his eye in the affidavit.
The affidavit indicates that Melvin did not provide an explanation for how he got hurt. According to what Peirson reported, a medical examiner detected several symptoms of blunt force injuries all over Sylus’ body.
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KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE BABY
After feeding Sylus at approximately 3 a.m., Newbert allegedly went to sleep. “The last thing she told Reginald was ‘Don’t touch the baby, he’s good until his next feeding,’” the affidavit states. Newbert allegedly told a detective that Melvin would kill to silence the infant. Sylus’s father would yell, “(expletive) shut that baby up or I’ll slam it into the wall,” according to Newbert.
She claimed her mother would come over during the day to watch over Sylus while she slept because she was too scared to leave them alone together. According to Newbert, Melvin’s knocking at the door startled her up. Melvin was requested to hold Sylus’s head high while he held the baby. According to the affidavit, Melvin explained that he was trying to help Sylus breathe again.
She quickly picked up the infant and pleaded with Melvin to dial 911. Melvin allegedly told Newbert that he “couldn’t get through,” so Newbert stated she dialed 911 on her phone. According to the affidavit, an operator guided Newbert through CPR until paramedics arrived.
While Sylus was being taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor that day, local and state police interviewed Newbert and Melvin multiple times. Melvin stated he had brought Sylus to his bed early that morning while Newbert was sleeping in a reclining chair by Sylus’ cradle before storming out of the interview room and leaving the hospital.
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Melvin declared that he had prepared a bottle for the infant and intended to feed him. Melvin told police that he put Sylus and the bottle on a blanket and went for “about 10 seconds to 10 minutes” to use the bathroom. Melvin claimed he then heard Sylus “scream,” at which point he went to pick up the infant and begin stroking him on the back.
Newbert told police that when Melvin was holding Sylus, she saw makeup streaks on his onesie and found her makeup bag open in the bathroom. Sylus had changed into a different onesie from the Winnie-the-Pooh-themed camouflage one he had been wearing when she had fallen asleep.
Upon further inspection, detectives discovered blood on various household items, including washcloths, fitted crib sheets, a pillow, and a baby dinosaur blanket. “(Newbert) couldn’t help but think he had been dead for some time,” Peirson wrote.
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