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A Scott County man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the 2015 robbery and the murder of a rural Booneville man.

Robert Allen Melton, 53, of Waldron entered no contest pleas Friday in Logan County Circuit Court in Booneville to charges of robbery and failure to appear. He was charged in February 2016 with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm and was scheduled to go on trial Jan. 19, according to Circuit Court records.

Melton was one of five people charged in the April 2015 robbery and shooting death of Ritchie Lynch, 60, whose decomposing body was found outside his home on Glover Daniels Road near Booneville.

Melton was the last of the five to be sentenced in the case. The prosecution of his case stalled because he was a fugitive for nearly eight months, having absconded after being released from jail in March 2016 on a sheriff's citation so he could get medical treatment.

After his release, court records showed, delays in his case were granted and his appearance in court wasn't required until Dec. 2, 2016. At that point, a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to appear. The warrant was served July 28, 2017, according to court records.

Logan County Sheriff Boyd Hicks said at the time Melton was arrested in San Diego, where he had been caught crossing the border from Mexico to California with a group of people. Hicks said when authorities approached the group others ran, leaving Melton behind.

Melton waived extradition, and Hicks returned him to Arkansas to stand trial.

In a probable cause affidavit, Melton told investigators he was riding in a van with four others: Nick Stoicu, now 42, and Joseph Brown, 35, both of Mena; and Teresa Bennett, 38, and Dave Ann Townsend, 39, both of Booneville.

They parked in a wooded area a couple miles from where Lynch lived, Melton told investigators. The two women stayed in the van while Stoicu, Brown and Melton walked to Lynch's property.

Melton told investigators in the affidavit that he stopped and waited at the front gate while Stoicu and Brown continued on to Lynch's home, where they intended to rob him of drugs and money. He said he heard gunshots coming from the direction of Lynch's home. Stoicu and Brown appeared walking along the driveway a few minutes later and the three walked back to the van.

Initially only Stoicu and Brown were charged in the case, while Melton, Bennett and Townsend agreed to testify for the state against them. But when the two men's trial came up in February 2016, the three told prosecutors they wanted to retain attorneys and the prosecuting attorney's office charged them.

Stoicu and Brown were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and being felons in possession of firearms. Brown pleaded no contest June 3, 2016, to second-degree murder. Stoicu pleaded guilty June 27, 2016, to second-degree murder. Both were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Bennett was charged with aggravated robbery. On June 3, 2016, she pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Townsend was charged with aggravated robbery and hindering apprehension or prosecution. She pleaded guilty Jan. 20, 2017, to felony hindering apprehension or prosecution and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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State Desk on 01/09/2018

Print Headline: For part in death, sentence 18 years

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