Two men, both in wheelchairs, sat across from each other Thursday in Napa Superior Court, scrutinized by the jury hearing the Anita Andrews murder case.
One was the defendant, Roy Melanson, 74, accused of the July 10, 1974 murder of Andrews inside Fagiani’s Cocktail Lounge on Main Street.
The other was a prosecution witness, David Luce, 67, who is suffering from terminal cancer. He testified that he and two buddies were also in the bar that night.
The next morning, according to investigators, Andrews’ bloodied body was discovered in the bar’s stockroom.
Thirty-five years later, in January 2010, Luce, who now lives in Chico, identified Melanson’s mug in a photo line-up prepared by Napa Police Det. Don Winegar as someone he had seen in the bar that July night.
Speaking in a strong voice in spite of his illness, Luce recalled that he and his two friends, the late Al Mufich and Al McKenzie, were out drinking that night. They had walked to Fagiani’s for beers after going to another bar, the Happy Hour on Third Street. They intended to stop for a bit, then go to the Catania’s Pizza Pub on the Silverado Trail, he said.
At Fagiani’s, they saw an unidentified man at the bar, Luce said. The man was intentionally shielding his face with his left hand and smoking, Luce said.
“I don’t think he said a word,” Luce said. “He was drinking.”
The man, who was in his 40s with a receding hairline and “thinish” lips, also stood out because he was sitting on the stool, crossing his legs “like a girl,” Luce said.
Mufich became belligerent, shouting insults to the stranger, Luce recalled. “‘How come you’re hiding your face!?’” Luce hollered in the courtroom, imitating the now dead Mufich.
Luce said he went to the bathroom. On the way out, he said he stopped by the man and shook his hand to ease the tension after Mufich’s yelling.
The hand he shook at Fagiani’s bar was just like President Nixon’s, he told the jury.
He had shaken the future president’s hand in Alaska in the early 1960s, Luce said. When he described Nixon as having the “hottest, softest, wimpiest” hand, the retired construction worker drew laughter from the Napa jurors.
Andrews intervened that night, Luce said. “I think (Andrews) said ‘he’s my boyfriend,’” he said.
The next morning when he went to the Happy Hour bar on Third Street to retrieve his truck from the night before, Luce said he heard something bad had happened at Fagiani’s bar.
Melanson allegedly stabbed Andrews as many as 13 times, possibly with the screwdriver found at the bar, Dr. Jay Chapman, a pathologist told the court Thursday.
Also on Thursday, prosecutor Paul Gero called to the stand Winegar and other police officers who handled evidence in the Andrews case, which remained “cold” for more than three decades.
Melanson was serving a life sentence for the murder of another woman in Colorado when a DNA profile from a cigarette butt collected at the crime scene in Napa matched his.
Michelle Terra, a criminologist with the state Department of Justice in Ripon, testified that she first began to work on the Andrews case in 2001 when she received the first set of evidence from the Napa Police Department, including towels, hair samples and fingernail clippings from Andrews, and other evidence from the crime scene. She did not start the analysis until 2004, she said.
“We had a significant backlog in cases,” said Terra, who then how explained DNA samples are analyzed.
Terra was expected to return to the stand at 9:30 a.m. Friday.