3 convicted of mistaken-identity murder of NJ teacher

FREEHOLD, N.J. — A jury has convicted three men in the 2009 murder of a schoolteacher that prosecutors said stemmed from a botched robbery.

Prosecutors said the men planned to rob a drug dealer but went to the wrong Neptune City apartment and attacked 33-year-old Jonelle Melton when they realized their mistake.

The Red Bank middle school social studies teacher, who was active in several extracurricular school groups, was found beaten, shot and stabbed.

On Tuesday, jurors found Ebenezer Byrd, Gregory Jean-Baptiste and Jerry Spaulding guilty of felony murder, armed burglary, armed robbery, conspiracy and weapons offenses. Byrd and Jean-Baptiste were also convicted of witness tampering.

Byrd and Jean-Baptiste were charged in 2015 after prosecutors developed a lead from an anonymous tip. Spaulding was charged in 2016.

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