Man gets 15 years for murder
A judge ordered 15 years in prison for a man who took a pillow and suffocated to death Melissa Monoogan Hanson, a 19-year-old from South Lake Tahoe.
Charles “Chad” Newport Jr., 20, was sentenced Thursday in El Dorado County Superior Court after pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Hanson. Fifteen years to life is the maximum sentence Judge Jerald Lasarow could impose for the crime.
Because of a change in sentence requirements about a year ago, Newport will not be eligible for parole until he has served 15 years minus the 319 days he has already served in El Dorado County Jail.
Hanson was murdered June 10. Her body was left sitting lifeless inside her bedroom closet. Carla Hanson, the girl’s mother, made the discovery around 6 a.m.
Newport and Melissa Hanson had been friends and were out partying together the night she was murdered. Newport drove Melissa back to her mother’s house where, according to a note he wrote found by deputies, he “snapped” and killed the 19-year-old.
Thursday seats in the courtroom were nearly filled as Newport stood several feet from Carla Hanson and read an apology.
“I’d like to address the family please,” Newport said as he turned toward Hanson. “I’m her mother,” Carla said quickly.
As she listened to the man who murdered her daughter, her hand shook as it gripped a statement she had written to read to Newport.
“This is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” he said. “I’ve taken the life of a beautiful woman, a person who meant so much to so many people … now her brother must grow up without the love of a big sister, something I have been able to cherish in my own life. I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights. I’ve tried taking my life, but to no avail. Words can’t describe how ashamed I am of myself. I ask myself why, was it the drugs and alcohol I used, or the years of depression I experienced, perhaps a little of both. There’s only one person to blame here and that’s me, regardless of the circumstances. All I can do is ask your forgiveness.”
Hanson shot back, “No, I will never forgive you.”
Then it was her turn to speak. Several times she pointed a finger at him and leaned over a wooden wall that separated her and Newport.
“We want to know why,” she asked. “Melissa was a beautiful woman with many friends including you. Chad, you don’t know what depression is. I do. I’ve been to hell and I am finding my way back. You should get life in prison, but whatever sentence you receive you will always be in prison for life in your mind for what you did.”
Then Hanson spoke about the memorial held for her daughter and how many friends came in support.
“How many friends have stayed by you Chad?,” she asked. “I guess you’ll make new friends in prison.”
After she finished, she sat down and was met by hands and embraces from a large group of family members.
As Charles Newport Sr., an AIDS educator at El Dorado County Health Department and father of Chad Newport, sat and watched the emotional exchange, tears filled his eyes.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Atwell was next to speak. He told the court one of the most disturbing aspects of the crime is that Newport has not explained, even after his statement that day in court, why he committed murder.
“He still hasn’t told us a reason for it,” Atwell said. “Except for his statement about using drugs and alcohol.”
Then, after Judge Lasarow handed down the sentence, Carla Hanson requested a bailiff give Newport a piece of paper containing a poem titled “I’m Free” and Melissa’s picture. The bailiff placed it on a table in front of him, but Newport’s eyes remained glued to the floor.
The 20-year-old will next be in court May 3. He may be sentenced to additional time in prison for violating parole for being under the influence of a controlled substance when deputies apprehended him two days after the murder.
That was a violation of the terms of probation he was under after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in January 1999. He spent seven months in jail for that crime.
Judge Lasarow ruled that conviction should not be considered a strike. The second-degree murder conviction is now the only strike on Newport’s criminal record.
At one point, prosecutors also charged Newport with having unlawful sexual intercourse with two minors, but those charges were dropped as part of his second-degree murder plea agreement.
Prior to his plea bargain, Newport had been charged with first-degree murder for Hanson’s death. It is a crime punishable by 25 years to life in prison.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.