Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2009 Murder of New Jersey Teacher While He and Two Others Burglarized the Wrong Apartment

Jonelle Melton

A New Jersey man was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, nearly ten years after murdering a New Jersey middle school teacher whose apartment he’d burglarized thinking it was someone else’s, PEOPLE confirms.

Jerry J. Spraudling, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder in March along with two other men in the 2009 killing Jonelle Melton, 33, who was found dead in her Neptune City apartment, according to a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office.

Spraudling must serve nearly 64 years before becoming eligible for parole.

The two other murderers — Ebenezer Byrd, 39, and Gregory A. Jean-Baptiste, 30, both of Asbury Park — are awaiting sentencing. All three were also convicted of other crimes including first-degree robbery.

The trio killed Melton after realizing they were in the wrong apartment, according to prosecutors. The Asbury Park Press reported Melton was beaten, stabbed multiple times and shot in the arm and in the head.

Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Matthew Bogner said during the defendants’ murder trial that the slaying was “about as brutal as it gets,” the Press reported.

Six years passed between Melton’s death and when her killers were charged. Authorities learned that the trio and a fourth defendant, James Fair, planned to burglarize a particular apartment in Melton’s complex but broke into the wrong one.

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