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Roy Melanson
Roy Allen Melanson

The brutal slaying of Anita Andrews at Fagiani's Cocktail Lounge in Napa hovered as a shadow over the property for 36 years.

But 2010 was the year new evidence shed light on the crime and gave renewed hope for resolution.

Police announced in January that DNA evidence linked the killing to Roy Allen Melanson, 73, who was serving a life sentence in Colorado for the murder of a woman near Gunnison about two months after Andrews died in 1974.

The break in the investigation was a catalyst for events that seemed to come in rapid succession after the quietude that had lingered for 36 years.

The Napa county district attorney’s office filed a single murder charge against Melanson in July.

In September, Melanson was extradited from Colorado, arriving at the Napa County Department of Corrections to face that murder charge.

The Napa County grand jury indicted him in October, and a judge set a trial for May 2011 following video testimony taken in November.

Muriel Fagiani, Andrew's sister who had lived with unanswered questions for more than three decades, died in December with the prospect of justice on the horizon.

Fagiani found her sister Anita dead in the bar the two co-owned on Main Street on July 11, 1974.

Detectives launched an intensive investigation, tracking down witnesses who had seen Andrews talking to a stranger the night she died.

They discovered her car, credit cards and jewelry missing. An unknown man used her credit card to get gas in Sacramento just after Andrews' death, but vanished from there.

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The leads cooled, and the case languished in the Napa Police Department files. Fagiani kept the bar open for about a year, then closed it for good.

The property stood as a silent memorial to her sister's death, preserved in time until about two years ago, when Fagiani sold it to developer and friend Steve Hasty. His plans to preserve the distinct maroon and blue tiles that cloak the bar's entrance launched a controversy that some say influenced the 2010 city council election.

Council candidate Gordon Huether had criticized retention of the tiles, a building add-on from 1945. Perhaps moved by the tiles’ identification with the Fagiani era, the court of public opinion favored keeping the tiles. Huether narrowly lost the election.

In September of 2009, Napa Police Investigator Don Winegar turned in evidence to the California Department of Justice crime lab. Lab technicians were able to extract DNA evidence, which they submitted to a national DNA database called CODIS.

Melanson's name surfaced as a match.

He was a stranger to Napa Investigators. Never before had they attached his name to the Fagiani investigation.

Melanson had been an early suspect in a Colorado murder of Michele Wallace, a case that remained cold for about 16 years. A Gunnison County investigator named Kathy Young reopened the investigation and began the hunt for her body in the early ’90s.

She eventually found Wallace's remains, and her investigation led to Melanson's successful prosecution.

Melanson has a rap sheet with convictions for rape, burglary, weapons possession and theft. He is also a suspect in a 1988 disappearance of a woman in Port Arthur, Texas, as well as the killing of Walker, La., resident Charlotte Lily Sauerwin that same year.

Though Andrews’ death remains without a convicted killer as the New Year dawns, 2010 was the year that a 1974 slaying again became front-page news.

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