- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — A two-time convicted sex offender who has been charged in the slaying of an 11-year-old boy was a suspect in an earlier assault on the boy and had threatened to kill him, court documents show.

Details about that incident were not available, although the boy’s mother, Shanda Harris, confirmed to the Associated Press yesterday that a report had been made.

The assault and threat on July 4 was one of several puzzling aspects to a tragic case in which a man with an extensive record became a close family friend to a household with several children, even serving as a baby sitter, police said.

Melvin Jones Jr., 52, was ordered held without bail yesterday in the slaying of Irvin Harris, whose body was discovered early Monday in a heavily wooded section of a municipal golf course near his home.

The child had been stabbed several times, said Detective Donny Moses, and the body had begun to deteriorate, suggesting he was killed shortly after he disappeared Friday.

On Friday, Irvin spent much of the morning at a corner grocery store carrying bags for shoppers for extra change. Sometime after 2 p.m., he told friends he was going to the store to get a snowball ice cone.

Several neighbors told police that they saw Jones stop the youngster and walk away with him. The boy’s mother began searching for the two shortly after, finally reporting him missing about 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Sometime over the weekend, Jones called his daughter and a member of Irvin’s family and told them that he had killed the boy and hidden the body behind a church in the neighborhood, court documents said.

Police concentrated their search in that area and found the body on the golf course grounds, roughly in the vicinity of the church.

Jones was arrested Monday afternoon inside a downtown fast-food restaurant after police got an anonymous tip that he was there.

He was taken into custody without incident.

Jones has a lengthy record dating to 1970, when he was charged with rape, said Joseph Sviatko, a spokesman for the city state’s attorney’s office.

The state declined to prosecute that case, but Jones pleaded guilty in January 2002 to a third-degree sex offense and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but one year suspended. The victim in that case was a 15-year-old boy, Mr. Sviatko said.

The victim in the 2002 case met Jones when he was walking home from school, and the two had sex several times over about 18 months, court documents show.

Jones pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in 1989 and served slightly more than seven months in prison, Mr. Sviatko said. Jones also was convicted of indecent exposure in 1994, harassment in 1989 and battery in 1988.

Along with the rape charge, two charges against Jones were dismissed from court: a second-degree sex offense in 2000 and a third-degree sex offense in 1989.

Jones registered as a sex offender after his 2002 conviction and remains on active probation, Mr. Sviatko said. There were no indications Jones had violated his probation before his arrest.

After the 2002 offense, Jones told police during questioning “that he was a pedophile who needed help,” according to court documents.

Despite that record, Jones became a close friend of Irvin’s family and frequently baby-sat her six children, Miss Harris said.

Col. Fred Bealefeld, the police department’s chief of detectives, said there was “every indication” that Irvin’s mother knew about Jones’ 2002 conviction.

But the mother told the Baltimore Sun that Jones never revealed the extent of his record.

“I’m blaming myself right now,” Miss Harris told WBAL-TV.

“By trusting Melvin, now my son is gone.”

Elizabeth Bartholomew, a spokeswoman for the Division of Parole and Probation, told the Baltimore Examiner that Jones may have violated his parole just by being so close to the family.

“Had we known that he was spending time with this family, we would have said no, absolutely not,” Ms. Bartholomew said.

Miss Harris declined to describe the July 4 incident yesterday, saying she was too upset to talk about it now.

But court records said Jones was a suspect in an assault on the boy on July 4, and that the man told the youth, “I’ll kill you.”

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