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The Wrongful Conviction of Sandra Melgar

    Late into the night of December 22, 2012, Jaime and Sandy Melgar were the victims of a home invasion in Houston, Texas. Jaime Melgar was murdered in this brutal attack, suffering multiple blunt and sharp injuries including 31 knife wounds - leaving behind his wife of 32 years, Sandy, and their only daughter Lizz, as well as the wider circle of family and friends.

    At around 4:15PM on December 23 Jim's brother, sister in law, two nieces, and niece's boyfriend came for dinner at Jim's invitation. Upon arriving at the house they found no answer to text messages, phone calls, or knocks at the door. A garage door which was usually kept closed was found open and used by Jim's older brother, to gain access to the house via an unlocked interior door. Upon entering and finding a dark and seemingly empty house, he went to let the rest of the family in via the front door. Around this time muffled cries for help were heard coming from the bedroom, where Sandy was found in her closet  (located in the master bath). Upon opening the closet door, sandy was found face down, tied up with her arms behind her back, ankles bound, barricaded into the closet from the outside with a chair on its rear legs, having urinated and defecated during the estimated 15 hours she had spent in the closet.

    Despite a series of health issues including Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, bone grafts in her hips and eventually bilateral hip replacements, and 34 years of documented Epilepsy and memory issues; detectives homed in on Sandy as the only suspect. Sandy was vulnerable, confused, and traumatized in the wake of her husband's murder and her own assault. With limited memory of what happened to the Melgars on that terrifying evening due to what seems was a seizure, blow to the head, or a combination of these factors - she was an easy target for the detectives. Sandy was taken straight from the scene of the crime to the police station for interrogation instead of the hospital, despite detectives telling the family otherwise. Detectives conducted a quick and careless investigation, failing to collect and thoroughly document important evidence, and requesting an arrest warrant from the DA within 2 hours of arriving at the crime - with out even processing the scene or testing any evidence. 

    The family's lawyer, George 'Mac' Secrest, defended Sandy in court for three weeks in August 2017. Secrest put together what he felt was a strong case highlighting the corruption and poor investigation conducted by the Harris County Sheriff's office. However, due to what some have called improper or unethical behavior on behalf of the prosecutor, combined with a complacent and biased investigation by the Harris County Sheriff's office - 12 jurors were led to believe that Sandra Melgar was guilty of Jaime Melgar's death. There were numerous glaring errors in the police investigation and strong evidence that contradicted the police's version of Sandy committing the crime - such as:

  • A suspect with a history of violence, drug charges, and robbery was reported to the HCSO by one of the local news crews as behaving strangely at the crime scene that evening. Police chose to investigate this suspect by leaving a business card at his door after two failed attempts to reach him; this is where the investigation into this suspect ended. 
  • A similar home invasion that was carried out in a surrounding area, with a nearly identical MO, was never investigated for possible connections.
  • Very little forensic testing was carried out on the crime scene. For example, blood photographed on the safe handle which was in the closet with Jim’s body was not processed or collected, despite the police telling the family the contrary. 
  • Male and Female DNA, not belonging to the Melgars, was found in several key areas, including stolen items, yet this evidence was ignored as it did not fit with the police's narrative.
  • Sandy had no cuts, wounds, or bruising that would come from beating and stabbing a larger adult to death. In contrast Jim sustained numerous bruises all over his body, abrasions, and catastrophic damage to organs that would indicate a violent struggle (this includes fracturing both eye sockets and two other locations of Jim's skull) that a woman of her size and with her health issues would surely be incapable of inflicting.
  • The lead detective, Shawn Ruben Carrizal,  was forced to resign two years after the crime due to forging search warrants in another murder investigation. When Detective Carrizal's office was cleared out, evidence from the Melgar case was found untested and incorrectly stored in a filing cabinet in his office.
  • These are just a few of the glaring errors which landed an innocent woman in prison for the next 27 years of her life, if she even lives that long. The fact that detectives ignored any evidence that pointed away from Sandy has created a difficult path for her to be able to prove her innocence, as the evidence that could and would have implicated someone else in this heinous crime was not even collect, correctly catalogued, and some was not even submitted for testing and/or analysis.

    The family have and continue to be truly devastated by this crime and the disturbing treatment experienced at the hands of the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Jim and Sandy's friends and family have continued to stick by Sandy and supported her through the bogus investigation and trial. Sandy was not innocent until proven guilty. There was zero forensic evidence linking her in this case and no motive; yet the outright lies told by Harris County Sheriff's Office and it's prosecutor allowed for an innocent woman to be charged and convicted with the heinous crime of murdering her husband. This traumatic ordeal is lived everyday by the Melgars, haunted by the death of their much loved husband, father, son, brother, uncle; his grandchildren will never have the privilege of knowing their grandfather. 

    Sandy has been wrongly convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison, assuming she lives that long with her health issues and subpar medical treatment. Whilst Sandy is serving someone else's time, the true murderer is still out, free to live their life in the community. Sadly this is all too common in Texas, particularly in Harris County. This living nightmare could happen to any one of us; it is terrifying that the authorities that are in place to protect the public have the power and capability to inflict such harm through their abuse of the same legal system meant to provide truth and justice. With your help, we hope to bring Sandy home, find Jim's murderers, and finally allow for Jim's friends and  family to begin the process of grieving and healing.