This story is part of a series of Milwaukee homicide sentencings being covered this spring by UWM journalism students. You can read other student stories about this sentencing here.
At a Milwaukee courthouse hearing Friday afternoon, Melvin Jones, 17, was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 10 years extended supervision after entering a guilty plea for the felony of Milwaukee nightclub promoter, Christopher Gray.
Gray’s popular nickname was “Caly Kris.” Many of the friends and family of the victim were wearing shirts with “RIP Caly Kris” or “Feel My Pain” written across them in bold lettering.
Jones, 16 at the time of the murder, was originally charged with one count of 1st-degree reckless homicide and burglary. In a plea agreement, Jones pled guilty to a lesser charge of felony murder back in March.
On Nov 16, 2013, Jones, 16 at the time, and his accomplice, Oliver Sellers, 22, began burglarizing Gray’s Milwaukee apartment when Gray returned home. The two attacked Gray before he fled the residence.
Jones and Sellers chased him into an alley where Jones struck Gray in the face and head with a hammer. They proceeded to empty his pockets when Gray became unconscious. He died shortly after from multiple blunt force trauma to the head, according to the coroner’s report.
Prosecutor Grant Huebner played several minutes of a tape of Jones’ initial interview after his arrest. In the interview, Jones first states that he never had a weapon with him. Upon being informed of Gray’s death, Jones admitted that he had the hammer.
“I hit him in the face,” Jones admitted in the interview.
Gray’s mother, Lisa Fanroy, first approached the court with a written statement about her unconditional love for her son, and her disgust for Jones’ actions.
“There’s no words to describe the feelings I feel for Melvin Jones,” Fanroy said. “God have mercy on his soul for what he did to Chris.”
The victim’s aunt, Barbara Bully, was watching television the morning of Gray’s death and saw his apartment on the news.
“Chris was a fun-loving, happy person,” Bully said to the court. “His children will never know what a sweet person he was.”
Jerome Smith, a good friend of Gray’s, spoke of his unforgettable smile. He said that Jones should receive the maximum sentence for the crime.
“It’s not fair that he could take someone’s life just to come back and live again,” Smith said.
Friend Michael W. Bickham played football with Gray as children.
“Chris always did things to provide for his family,” Bickham said to the court.
Bickham then told Jones that he should have gone out and gotten a work permit at the age of 16 instead of engaging in criminal activity.
Defense attorney Jeffery Jensen addressed the number of influences, including mental disorder, a difficult upbringing, and barely any education, that contributed to Jones’ unfortunate actions.
“Mr. Jones was subjected to negative influences.” Jensen said. “That is one of the biggest understatements I have ever heard. For many reasons, he is a damaged person.” Jones then addressed the court and the victim’s family, saying that he takes responsibility for his actions, but that he never laid a finger on Gray.
Court official Timothy Dugan took in account the number of mitigating and aggravating factors for Jones’ sentencing: including his character, the seriousness of the crime, caring for public safety and taking into account that he did have a weapon.
“You’re going to have difficulties in life, and you’re going to have to overcome them,” Dugan said, “No matter what I do here today, I can’t give back what you took.”
Dugan finalized the hearing by recognizing the states recommendation for 25 years plus 10 additional probation.
As a part of his probation, Jones will not be allowed to make any contact with Gray’s family or the family of his accomplice, Jonathan Sellers.