PITTSBURGH: Michael Melendez told police he didn’t mean to kill his mother and didn’t know she was badly hurt when he left her bleeding on the floor of her West Deer home in August 2002.
Melendez, 36, is on trial for homicide in the stabbing death of his mother, Linda Melendez, before Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning this week.
“It’s not like I would want to kill my mother, but there was just this altercation,” Melendez told police.
On Tuesday, prosecutors played a tape of a rambling and contradictory statement Melendez made to county police hours after Linda Melendez, 56, was found dying of 34 stab wounds at her home on Little Deer Creek Valley Road.
Melendez told police his mother stabbed herself accidentally after coming at him with a knife. Linda Melendez was suicidal and crazy to get more drugs, he said. She lunged at him with the kitchen knife to begin the fatal struggle, Melendez told county police.
“I went to grab the thing, she fell back, there was blood everywhere and I panicked. I mean, it’s my mother.”
Melendez said he tried to pull the knife out of his mother’s body.
“Next thing I knew, it was in her again,” he said.
Later on the tape, Melendez said he never tried to pull the knife from his mother and that he didn’t think she’d been badly hurt because there wasn’t much blood.
“I thought she was totally fine because there wasn’t that much blood and she was laying on the floor, screaming,” he said.
Forensic pathologist Bennett Omalu, who performed an autopsy for the county coroner’s office, testified Linda Melendez suffered more than 30 stab wounds to her chest, arms and hands. An 11-centimeter deep stab wound that cut a large vein in her chest probably killed her, he said.
“With penetration and laceration of that vein, the victim sustained 3.5 liters of internal bleeding,” Omalu said. “This was probably the fatal wound.”
Linda Melendez had about 16 defensive stab wounds on her arms and hands that showed she tried to fight off an attacker who was stabbing her from above — probably while she was lying on the floor, Omalu said.
Melendez asked to leave the courtroom during Omalu’s testimony because seeing diagrams and photos of his mother’s injuries would be too upsetting.
Manning allowed him to leave, but warned that missing part of the trial might jeopardize any appeal he might make based on ineffective counsel.
Though toxicology tests showed Linda Melendez did not have any cocaine or heroin in her system, she had taken fentanyl (the drug in Duragesic patches she abused), ephedrine and a psychiatric drug, Omalu said. The combination of these drugs likely sedated her, he said.
On the tape, Melendez said the fatal fight began when he and his mother were arguing over drugs. Both were suffering withdrawal, but Linda Melendez had refused to share her Duragesic patch and he had refused to share his heroin, Melendez told the police.
“It’s supposed to be if I get heroin, I help you and if you get patches you help me,” he said. “We help each other until we get into a methadone clinic.”
Melendez fled the scene in his mother’s car, dropped his children off at a friend’s house in New Kensington, and then just drove around until police spotted him along Route 8 in Hampton Township.
Police officers from Hampton and Shaler testified they chased Melendez south on Route 8 until he crashed his car in Shaler. Melendez begged officers to shoot him and acted as if he was slashing his throat with a knife, they said.
However, Melendez was using the blunt, back of the knife, not the blade, to slash at his neck and did not hurt himself, officers said. They used pepper spray to subdue Melendez.
Police took Melendez to the Allegheny County Police headquarters where they said it was his 14-year-old daughter, Nichole, who told him that his mother had died.
“She said, ‘Nanna’s dead,'” Shaler officer Regis Smith testified. “He said, ‘Is she?’ and the girl said, ‘Yeah.'”
Assistant District Attorney Bruce Beemer rested his case Tuesday afternoon.
Defense attorney Kathleen Cribbins is expected to begin her case today, calling a psychiatrist as part of the insanity defense she plans.