Violent day leaves 3 dead

Baton Rouge police are investigating three separate homicides that happened within a five-hour span Thursday, in which two people were shot and a woman was stabbed in an apparent domestic dispute.

None of the incidents appeared to be related, police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said Friday.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he was “frustrated” by Thursday’s homicides.

Moore said he’s disappointed any time there is a murder, let alone when three happen in a short period of time.

“It just goes to show you that things can turn really quickly,” he said.

The spate of homicides comes after a lull in killings in the parish in late 2012.

In the first of the three killings on Thursday, Brannon Counts, 32, 5690 N. Howell St., was shot at 5:10 p.m. in the parking lot of 5701 Hollywood St. during a fight over a drug deal, McKneely said in a news release. After being shot, Counts sped off in a car through a grassy field at Hollywood Street and McClelland Drive, McKneely said.

Counts’ vehicle crashed into a backyard fence of a nearby home, McKneely said. Counts died at the scene.

Ruben Van Dyke, 30, 425 Wilson St., Alexandria, is wanted on counts of first-degree murder and illegal use of a dangerous weapon in Counts’ death, McKneely said.

Dyke was last seen fleeing the area in a white convertible Chrysler Sebring with a black roof, McKneely said.

Around 9:30 p.m., police were called about a 26-year-old woman shot inside her La Margie Avenue home, McKneely said.

Shaquanan Jones, 12622 La Margie Ave., died from a single gunshot wound to her upper torso, McKneely said.

An unidentified person fired multiple shots through a window into the home and struck Jones, McKneely said. She died at the scene.

Police were unsure whether Jones was the intended target, McKneely said. Two other people were in the room at the time of the shooting, but were not hit, McKneely said. He said that police do not know a motive for the shooting and no suspects have been named.

In yet another homicide, police arrested a 51-year-old man in the stabbing death of his former girlfriend and the stabbing injury of a man who tried to intervene. Police responded to the domestic dispute about 9:50 p.m. at 3225 Plank Road, McKneely said.

Jerome Murry Mellion, 143 Oklahoma St., was taken into custody early Friday and booked on first-degree murder in the death of 48-year-old Wanda Ortiz, McKneely said.

Mellion also faces attempted first-degree murder in the stabbing of a 46-year-old who sought to intervene in the incident, McKneely said.

Both victims were taken to a local hospital, where Ortiz later died from her injuries, McKneely said.

The 46-year-old man suffered “moderate” injuries,” McKneely said.

The motive of the stabbing, McKneely said, appeared to stem from Ortiz and Mellion having broken up.

“He didn’t like the fact that she was seeing somebody else,” McKneely said.

Court records show Mellion has a lengthy criminal history. His record includes convictions for a 1989 forcible rape and aggravated burglary, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Mellion was sent to state prison in January 1990 and released Oct. 16, 2011, with three intermittent parole releases that were all revoked, Laborde said.

“He stayed out anywhere from two to six months on supervision on those three occasions but got ultimately got revoked each time,” Laborde said in an email.

Police Chief Dewayne White was off on Friday and unavailable for comment, McKneely said.

McKneely noted that police know the motives for two of the incidents — drugs and domestic violence.

“These days, whenever someone has an issue, they tend to turn to violence,” McKneely said. “We make every attempt to not only connect with the community but change individuals’ behavior and how they attempt to conduct or handle themselves whenever they have an issue.”

Moore, the district attorney, said the homicides prove that the city-parish’s latest major crime fighting initiative, the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, needs more time before it really makes a major impact on criminal activity.

“It’s just frustrating,” Moore said of Thursday’s homicides. “We just hope that this is not a trend.”

Homicides had been on the decline in Baton Rouge prior to Thursday’s killings.

Parish law enforcement agencies reported only one homicide in October, five in November and three in December, according to statistics compiled by The Advocate.

Baton Rouge police have said they were averaging more than seven homicide investigations a month in the first eight months of 2012. That average dropped to three during the last four months of the year.

Local law enforcement had only reported one homicide in January 2013 until Thursday. Seven homicides were reported in the parish in January 2012.

Anyone with information on any of Thursday’s homicides is asked to contact police at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at (225) 344-STOP.