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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Melinda Muniz Murder Case

     In 2013, Mitch Ford, his 25-year-old fiancee Melinda Muniz, and his 3-year-old daughter Grace from a previous marriage, lived in Plano, Texas, the sprawling suburban community north of Dallas. Ford and his ex-wife Emily Ward were engaged in a custody battle over Grace Ford, their daughter.

     Mitch and Melinda's relationship ran into trouble in late December 2013 when she revealed that she had been cheating on him.

     Early in the morning of January 9, 2014, before he left for work, Mitch told Melinda that within the next few days she would have to move out of the apartment. The engagement was over. Melinda did not take this news very well.

     Later that day, Mitch Ford, concerned about how Melinda was reacting to the break-up, called the the Plano Police Department and asked that officers check on Melinda and his daughter. At one-forty that afternoon, when officers showed up for the welfare call, they didn't get a response when they knocked on the door. They called Mr. Ford who came to the complex to let them into the apartment.

     In the master bedroom, officers found Melinda with her pants down with duct-tape over her mouth. In the toddler's room, they found Grace Ford unconscious in her crib. Someone had placed tape across her mouth as well.

     The child was taken by ambulance to the Children's Medical Center in Dallas where doctors pronounced her brain-dead. Physicians put the 3-year-old on life support until her organs could be harvested.

     Melinda Muniz told detectives that an intruder had forced his way into the apartment and raped her. The rapist had covered her mouth, and the child's, with the tape. She described the intruder as a total stranger.

     Melinda's story quickly unraveled. A medical examination revealed that she had not been sexually assaulted. Moreover, a surveillance camera at a nearby store showed Melinda buying duct-tape, zip ties, cotton balls, and a pair of scissors. When confronted with this evidence and inconsistencies in her story, Melinda Muniz stuck to the intruder story.

     The Dallas County Medical Examiner ruled Grace Ford's death criminal homicide by asphyxiation.

     Police officers, on January 28, 2014, booked Melinda Muniz into the Collins County Jail on the charge of capital murder. She pleaded not guilty and the judge set her bond at $1 million. If convicted as charged, she faced life in prison without parole.

     The Muniz trial got underway on January 27, 2015 at the Collins County Courthouse, district judge Mark Rusch presiding. Co-prosecutor Lisa King, in her opening remarks, told the jury that the evidence showed the defendant had carefully planned the little girl's murder. Defense attorney Robbie McClung argued that the state's case was full of holes.

     The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy testified that the victim had been suffocated to death. As for the defendant, she had not been sexually assaulted as she had claimed. The prosecution also played surveillance camera footage showing the defendant, shortly before the murder, purchasing the duck-tape and the other items. Detectives took the stand and testified that the defendant had staged the home invasion/rape to cover-up the murder.

     When it came time for the defense to put on its case, the defendant, on the advise of her attorney, did not take the stand on her own behalf. Before the opposing attorneys presented their closing arguments to the jury, attorney McClung asked Judge Rusch to allow the jurors to consider the lesser charge of felony-murder. The judge denied the motion.

     In his closing argument, defense attorney McClung emphasized the fact the prosecution's case was entirely circumstantial. Moreover, the state had failed to prove a motive in the case. Prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry, when he stood before the jury, said that the state did not have a duty to prove motive in order to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, however, the motive was anger and revenge.

     On February 2, 2015, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. Judge Rusch, at a later sentencing hearing involving victim impact testimony, imposed the automatic sentence of life without the chance of parole. 

1 comment:

  1. Jim Fisher: This blog is full of errors. Muniz has not plead guilty and her trial is underway. Ford did not randomly have police do a welfare check because of the breakup. Rather, he called the police after Muniz called him screaming and faked the assault. Lastly, the door was not unlocked when police arrived and Ford himself had to unlock the door.

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