A man accused of killing his friend after a night of drinking had a court appearance today where he pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder on Friday (Oct. 11).
Joshua Melton, 33, a former Razorback football player has his trial set for Dec. 13.
"We pled Josh Melton not guilty this morning because he is in fact not guilty," Melton's lawyer Drew Ledbetter said. "Josh appreciates the continued support from his friends and family and we're looking forward to a trial on this matter."
Melton was released from the Washington County Detention Center on Aug. 29 on a $100,000 bond. His arraignment hearing was initially scheduled for September, but was rescheduled, according to Prosecuting Attorney John Threet.
Threet said that they delay is a result of some investigative reports being outstanding.
Melton was arrested Aug. 28 after allegedly going into a “rage” and punching a man multiple times. The friend was found dead in Melton’s home, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Melton was arrested in connection with Michael Gover’s 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 the preliminary report.
Police found Gover dead inside the house near the front door. He had blood on his face and chest, according to the report.
Responding officers found Melton sitting in his driveway with his hands covered in blood. He was slumped and crying, the preliminary report states.
The body of Gover, 30, of West Fork, was sent to the state Crime Lab in Little Rock to determine the cause of death, said Washington County Coroner Roger Morris. Ledbetter said that the autopsy report had still not been received on Friday (Oct. 11).
“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.
Melissa Rumple's husband was a roommate of Gover previously.
"There's a lot of friends who will have a hole that will never be filled," she said. "We are going through a lot of events in our lives that he's not going to be a part of anymore and I want people to remember that we've lost somebody."
Melton and Gover had been drinking until about 2 a.m. 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. 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 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.
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.