A career criminal accused of stalking a Baton Rouge woman before stabbing her to death in 2013 outside her Plank Road apartment and wounding one of her neighbors who tried to stop the savage attack was convicted Tuesday.
State District Judge Mike Erwin, who presided over the two-day bench trial, found Jerome Mellion, 54, of Baton Rouge, guilty of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the Jan. 10, 2013, killing of Wanda Ortiz and wounding of Michael Harris, a military veteran.
Mellion, a registered sex offender, faces a mandatory term of life in prison on the murder count. He will be sentenced May 6.
Trial testimony revealed the 48-year-old Ortiz was stabbed 33 times, a fact that Mellion’s attorney, Benn Hamilton, argued pointed to manslaughter.
The attack was so vicious that the knife blade broke away from the handle. Both were found at the scene.
Harris, who was stabbed in the front collarbone area, testified Monday and identified Mellion as Ortiz’s and his attacker. A East Baton Rouge Parish Prison inmate also testified that Mellion confessed to stabbing the woman and her neighbor. Mellion claimed Ortiz had taken $80 from him.
Mellion denied to authorities that he killed Ortiz but admitted breaking her wrist about two weeks before her death.
Ortiz’s family has said she was a loving and compassionate person who was kind to strangers.
A week before she was killed, Mellion had been accused of threatening to kill Ortiz’s boyfriend but eluded police in a foot chase through a cemetery, police reports indicate. Her boyfriend reported to police that Mellion showed up at his apartment with a shotgun and demanded he come outside.
Mellion, whose record includes no less than 16 arrests since the late 1970s, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for climbing through a Baton Rouge woman’s bedroom window in 1989 and raping her at gunpoint in her bed.