Daylight attack leaves innocent woman dead
by Robert A. Waters
On December 27, 2011, thirty-year-old Hope Melton’s life chugged along like always. She worked as manager of “T & T Country Store” in McBee, South Carolina. Twelve years before, she’d begun as a clerk, then worked her way up.
In the early afternoon, she planned to visit her grandmother in rural Chesterfield County. Along the way, Hope stopped at Jack’s convenience store, pumped ten dollars worth of gas, and headed inside to pay for it. A man, later identified as Nikolas Miller, watched her from the doorway. As Hope walked back out the door to return to her white Chevy sedan, he got into his SUV, drove to a corner of the parking lot, and waited. When she drove off, Miller pulled out behind her.
Frankie Melton, Hope’s brother-in-law, described what happened next: “[Miller] got right up on her back bumper and she, at that point, called her grandmother and said that someone was following her and it was a black man from the store, [someone] that she had seen at the store. Her grandmother told her not to stop for anything and come straight on to her house and...that's the last they heard from her.”
A few minutes later, after Hope didn’t show up, family members set out searching for her. They found her car in a ditch, still running. Hope was nowhere in sight.
The family called 911. Sheriff's investigators quickly arrived at Jack’s and viewed videotapes from the store's surveillance cameras. Miller, identified as the man following Hope from the parking lot, appeared to be stalking her. He was tracked down and arrested.
It was too late for Hope.
She was already dead.
The suspect allegedly confessed to the kidnap, rape, and murder of Hope. He said he ran her car off the road, abducted her, and drove her to various locations where he sexually assaulted her. After an hour, he bludgeoned her to death with a baseball bat. Miller led authorities to an abandoned field where they located Hope's body.
Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews, in whose county the murder took place, said: "This was a horribly brutal and senseless crime. One of the worst I have ever seen. To our knowledge, Ms. Melton did not know her killer."
Miller is presumed legally innocent until his trial. But it’s the kind of case that inflames passions. The victim led a productive life with a husband and loving family. She was simply driving to a relative's house. Such a random crime could happen to anybody.
If the suspect is convicted, he deserves the death penalty.
Here's hoping South Carolina won't wait twenty-five years to carry it out!