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Victim's ex-lover testifies in third trial of man once sentenced to death in 1981 Newport slaying

Victim's ex-lover testifies in third trial of man once sentenced to death in 1981 Newport slaying
James Andrew Melton, shown in an undated booking photo, is accused of killing a Newport Beach man in 1981. (File photo)

The night before his death in October 1981, 77-year-old Anthony DeSousa spent the evening at Disneyland with his younger lover Al Satter.

The two had dinner at the Anaheim theme park and rode the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, a detail Satter said he remembers well because a mechanical dog on the ride caught fire as their boat sailed by.

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As they left to return to DeSousa's condominium at 455 Bolero Way in Newport Beach, DeSousa told Satter he planned to return to Disneyland the next day to meet someone, though he never said whom, Satter, now 82, said Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Satter was aware that he and DeSousa had a non-exclusive romance. He said he often would see DeSousa taking notes on calendars and notepads, planning dates with other men.

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The pair returned to DeSousa's home and had cocktails before Satter left in the early morning of Oct. 10.

That, he said, was the last time he saw DeSousa alive.

Three days later, Newport Beach police conducting a check on DeSousa's welfare found his body on the bed in the master bedroom of his condo.

He was unclothed, a pillow partially covering his face. A leather strap was wrapped around his genitals. His hands were bound in front of his body and a cord from a lighted mirror was wrapped tightly around his neck, Newport Beach police Officer Jeff Cantrell said in court Monday.

The condominium had been ransacked, authorities said.

This week, James Andrew Melton, 65, of Los Angeles went on trial for the third time in the case, accused of beating and strangling DeSousa inside his home on Oct. 10, 1981, in a plot to steal from him.

Melton, who is facing charges of murder, residential burglary and robbery, was convicted of the crimes in 1982 and sentenced to death. But in 2007, a federal judge threw out his conviction after ruling that Melton was too heavily medicated on psychiatric drugs during his trial to understand the proceedings or participate in his defense.

After a new trial was ordered, Orange County prosecutors took the death penalty off the table and retried Melton in 2014. But a jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.

Now prosecutors are trying the case again.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen McGreevy told jurors during his opening statement Monday that Melton and Johnny Boyd, who became romantically involved while serving prison sentences in San Luis Obispo in 1980, concocted a plan to make money by finding older gay men through ads in newspapers.

At the time, Boyd was incarcerated for forgery, Melton for an assault in Oakland.

Their plan, McGreevy said, was to contact the men, go to their homes and take items of value "by any means necessary."

That's what happened to DeSousa, McGreevy alleged.

McGreevy said Boyd, who was released from prison before Melton, met DeSousa through a personal ad in a newspaper. DeSousa told Boyd that he liked black men, and Boyd offered to set him up with a man he said was his cousin. Authorities say that man was Melton.

Boyd was arrested in an unrelated case a few days before the three men were scheduled to rendezvous. Melton decided to meet DeSousa alone on Oct. 10, 1981, at the Disneyland Hotel, according to prosecutors.

That day, McGreevy alleges, Melton strangled DeSousa and made off with his car and other valuables.

In court Tuesday, Satter identified several pieces of luggage, a movie projector and a radio that authorities found in Melton's apartment as items that had belonged to DeSousa. He also identified a gold watch that Satter had given to DeSousa and a gold ring that DeSousa had bought at Mardi Gras. Melton had both items and DeSousa's car at the time of his arrest, authorities said.

Defense attorney Denise Gragg, who is representing Melton, asked jurors to keep an open mind during the trial.

"What seems apparent isn't always as clear as some would like it to be," she said.

Testimony in the case will continue Thursday.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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