Cousins’ deaths being probed for possible link

By Chris Berendt - [email protected]

Clinton Police officials are investigating the apparent drug overdose of a man found dead at a motel in Clinton Monday morning. The man’s cousin was shot to death at a Clinton-area residence just a day and a half before.

The incidents, and potential links between them, are still being probed.

Lannis Melvin, 32, was found dead Monday morning at the Days Inn in Clinton, the victim of an overdose. He is reportedly the cousin of gunshot victim Willie Junior Melvin, 33. While many overdoses are not criminal cases, Clinton Police Chief Donald Edwards said his agency looks into them for possible involvement of opioids in order to track what is a growing national epidemic of prescription pill use and abuse.

“As we’re talking, we’re still looking into it,” Edwards said Wednesday, noting, “It was an overdose. We do investigate all overdoses. It’s possible that an overdose — if substantial evidence exists —could result in criminal charges against the person that provided it.”

The police chief said preliminary tests revealed the presence of cocaine and fentanyl, an opioid with rapid onset painkilling effects, in Lannis Melvin’s system. Edwards noted that an official toxicology report is being conducted, but that those toxicology reports often do not discount what is found in preliminary testing.

“Usually toxicology reports support the preliminary tests, but sometimes uncovers something additional,” Edwards noted.

He stressed that, “because of the relationship between the two” victims in the fatal incidents, local agencies are collaborating in attempting to uncover details in the cases that may lead to more information. The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of Willie Melvin.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to 154 Kent Circle, Clinton, after a call came in to the Emergency 911 Center at 11:58 p.m. Saturday. Deputies discovered Willie Melvin dead at the residence, the victim of at least one gunshot. Initial reports stated that an “unknown suspect” came to the front door of the residence and shot Melvin, whose address was listed in reports as Ville Platte, La. Lannis Melvin was reportedly of the same town in Louisiana.

An investigation into the shooting death of Melvin is ongoing, Capt. Julian Carr, of the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division, stated Monday. Details in the case are sketchy. Preliminary reports note a suspect in a black hoodie and black pants, who fled away from the residence on foot.

Carr said this week that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Clinton Police Department are assisting in the case.

“We’re not investigating the shooting, but we are working with them because of our overdose (case) and their shooting (case),” said Edwards. “But we are not deeply involved in the shooting case.”

By Chris Berendt

[email protected]

Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.

Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.