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Killer of Anita Andrews dies in prison

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Roy Melanson dies

Roy Melanson (right, in wheelchair) was convicted in 2011 of killing Anita Andrews in 1974 inside Fagiani's Bar in downtown Napa. He continued to be held in prison in Colorado for the murder of Michele Wallace, who was killed about two months after Andrews.

The man responsible for possibly the most notorious murder in Napa’s history has died in prison.

Roy Allan Melanson, 83, died in a Colorado prison in May of 2020, the Napa District Attorney’s Office confirmed this week. They only learned of the death earlier this year when a prosecutor called Colorado authorities to check on him.

Melanson was serving life sentences for two murders, including the 1974 killing of Anita Andrews, who was tending bar at the Fagiani's Cocktail Lounge in downtown Napa.

Annie Skinner, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections, on Thursday confirmed the death of Melanson on May 22, 2020. He had been held in the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City.

The case transfixed Napa and went unsolved for decades until a 2007 DNA test linked Melanson to the crime, a development that generated national headlines. He had no known connection to Napa and had not previously been a suspect, but tests on a cigarette butt found at the crime scene turned up DNA that matched Melanson’s profile in a national database.

Melanson denied ever having visited Napa, but a witness later confirmed he had seen Melanson late in the evening of July 10, 1974, at the bar, before Andrews was stabbed to death. Several witnesses told detectives at the time that they had seen an unknown man sitting at the back of the bar shortly before the killing.

“Roy Melanson was a serial rapist and killer who terrorized women around the country. His crime spree, unfortunately, included the Napa community which was traumatized for 37 years until his identification and prosecution,” said Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero, who successfully prosecuted Melanson in Napa in 2011. “We are gratified to know he was convicted of first-degree murder and never released to re-offend again.”

The killing of Andrews left a lasting mark on Napa. Andrews’ sister, Muriel Fagiani, owned the Main Street bar and kept it locked and vacant for decades while detectives searched for the killer. She and the family sold the building in 2007, but it remained essentially untouched until 2010 when the new owner began renovations for a new restaurant. The iconic Fagiani’s neon sign remained in place until 2015 and the old red tile exterior remained until 2017.

Muriel Fagiani became a fixture in Napa city politics, as a fierce advocate for preserving the old character of downtown. She also kept her sister’s memory alive, pushing to keep the attention of law enforcement on the case despite the passage of decades. She died in 2010 at age 85, less than two months after Melanson was indicted for her sister’s killing.

Melanson, a drifter, has been connected to numerous rapes over the years and at least three other murders: he was convicted in the 1974 killing of Michele Wallace in Colorado, for which he was serving a life sentence when Napa detectives identified him as a suspect in the Andrews killing. He was a strong suspect in the 1988 murders of Pauline Klumpp in Texas and Charlotte Sauerwin in Louisiana.

Retired Judge Ray Guadagni, who presided over Melanson's 2011 trial and who later wrote a book about the case, said the Anita Andrews murder was one of two cases that rocked Napa in just over a decade. The other was the as-yet unsolved abduction and murder of 5-year-old Doreen Heskett in 1963.

"We lost our innocence," he said Thursday.

After the Andrews killing, he said, people started locking their doors and women began being apprehensive being alone at night.

"It brought home that we weren't safe even here in little old Napa," he said. "I think it shook up the town. It scarred us in a way."

Reporter Howard Yune contributed to this report.

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Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.

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