Murder suspect pleads out
A young man pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of 19-year-old Melissa Hanson Wednesday in El Dorado County Superior Court.
Charles “Chad” Newport, a 20-year-old from South Shore, is expected to receive a prison sentence of 15-years-to-life. With his plea, Newport admitted he suffocated Hanson in her bedroom.
El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Michael Atwell said Newport used a pillow to commit the crime. Carla Hanson found her daughter, who many knew as Melissa Monoogan, dead June 10 around 6 a.m. She was seated with her head resting against the wall of her bedroom closet.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Newport two days later. They found him in the parking lot of Angora Lakes where he was cooperative but wearing socks and no shoes and under the influence of a controlled substance.
Through the window of Newport’s car an investigator saw and read a suicide note.
It stated: “I guess if someone is reading this, I’m already dead. First off I want to tell everyone I’m sorry. I never meant for things to happen like this. I don’t know why I killed Melissa. I’ve been in a deep, dark depression for many years now. Melissa and I were hooking up in her room and all of the sudden I snapped. I just started suffocating her. Next thing I knew she was dead. Once again I’m sorry for her and her family.”
Newport’s mother and brother were in court for the plea hearing. They would not comment on the guilty plea. His mother left the courtroom in tears. The brother left the building clearly upset.
Carla Hanson, Melissa’s mother, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Atwell said he spoke with her last week and that she “had approved a second-degree settlement.”
At the hearing Newport was shackled with chains and had his light-brown hair in a crew cut. When he first sat beside Amy Tobin, his court-appointed defense attorney, he took a deep breath, hunched over in his chair and stared at the floor.
“Because this is a violent crime you’ll have to serve 85 percent of your time,” said visiting Judge Richard A. Haugner. “And you’ll always have a life sentence hanging over your head. Do you understand that?”
Newport nodded his head and said, “Yes.”
As part of the plea bargain El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office agreed not to prosecute Newport for two counts of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Those charges were pending because of the murder charge. The court is yet to rule on the violation of probation he was booked for June 12, the day he was arrested for murder.
Investigators reportedly found him under the influence of an illegal drug. 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.
Last week Judge Jerald Lasarow ruled the assault conviction should not be considered a strike. The second-degree murder conviction is now the only strike on Newport’s criminal record.
Prior to his plea bargain, Newport had been charged with first-degree murder for Hanson’s death. It’s a crime punishable by 25 years to life in prison.
“It’s an appropriate plea,” Atwell said. “He appears to be taking responsibility for what he did.
“This is a case in which we don’t know a great deal of what went on in the bedroom. Only Melissa and Charles know what happened. And he’s (Charles) has never explained it to anybody.”
Atwell explained that, beside the suicide note, the evidence was circumstantial.
“Not so strong enough that it would have been appropriate to take it to trial,” he said. “Melissa Hanson died, she can’t provide us any assistance. There’s nothing other than that suicide note … A jury could make a choice to go with first-degee or go with second.”
Newport is expected to be sentenced April 26 at 1:30 p.m. in El Dorado County Superior Court.
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