Police arrested a former University of Arkansas football player Wednesday on suspicion of second-degree murder after he allegedly went into a “rage” and punched a man to death.
Josh Melton, 33, was arrested in connection with a Fayetteville death after allegedly telling a 911 operator he was unable to wake the victim after a fight following an all-night alcohol binge, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Melton was released from the Washington County Detention Center on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 29) on a $100,000 bond. His first court appearance is set for Sept. 30.
The body of the victim, Michael Gover, 30, of West Fork, has been sent to the state Crime Lab in Little Rock to determine the cause of death, said Roger Morris, Washington County coroner. Because of the Labor Day weekend, the results might not be available until next week, he said.
Responding officers early Wednesday found Melton sitting in his driveway on Copper Ridge Lane, with his hands covered in blood. He was slumped and crying, the preliminary report states.
“Apparently Mr. Melton was very remorseful for what had happened, and we don`t believe he had any intent to kill Mr. Gover,” said Sgt. Craig Stout, Fayetteville police spokesman.
Police found the Gover dead inside the house near the front door. He had blood on his face and chest, according to the report.
The six-foot-five, 289-pound Melton, who played at Batesville High, was a center on the Razorback football team that went to the Cotton Bowl under coach Houston Nutt in 2001, losing 10-3 to Oklahoma, according to arkansasrazorbacks.com.
Melton and Gover had been drinking until about 2 a.m. Wednesday at Hooters and J.J.’s Grill in Fayetteville, police said. They drove to Melton’s home at 6316 W. Copper Ridge Lane and drank more alcohol, after which the suspect allegedly went into a “rage” and punched the victim multiple times. Melton told police he last saw the victim lying on the floor breathing, the report states.
Police said the altercation was preceded by the victim vomiting on the suspect’s carpet. Melton allegedly confronted the victim, and the victim responded with “lewd comments,” according to the preliminary report.
The victim then allegedly grabbed Melton inappropriately, leading to a fight between the two men.
Melton went to bed after the altercation and found the victim unresponsive when he woke up and checked on him, the preliminary report states. Melton later admitted to police his earlier comments about he and the victim “swapping licks” were made because the suspect knew “he went too far,” according to the report.
“The initial call he made a statement that they had been kind of exchanging licks, making it almost sound like it was some type of a game, just trading punches as it were. But as we got into it a little bit further we realized that was not the case,” said Stout.
“Melton was cooperative and concerned throughout the interview,” the reporting officer states in the preliminary report. “He maintained there was never any intention to cause the victim’s death.”
Rick Crisman of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division said the ABC will look into whether the bars where the men were drinking violated the state law that prohibits serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. He said the state will conduct a probe after the police department completes its investigation.
Violation of the law could result in fines and a revocation of the establishment’s license to sell alcohol, he said.
However, Crisman said it could be difficult to prove the bars broke the law, since the two men apparently continued drinking after they arrived at Melton’s house.
In addition, revocation of Hooters license would not be possible, he said, because the establishment this week followed through on earlier plans to cease operations.