Justice delayed

Justice delayed

Craig Sexton is preparing for the toughest weekend of his life. It will be his first Father’s Day in 27 years without his youngest daughter, Melodie Fay. “Until we get past Father’s Day, this three-month stretch right here – next to the holidays – is the toughest time,” said Sexton.

The three-month stretch included celebrating Melodie’s son Jack’s fourth birthday. Melodie would’ve turned 27 in May. And Father’s Day marks one year that’s passed since Melodie was found dead, drowned in Lake Ivanhoe, a lake house community 10 minutes south of Woodville in Tyler County.

“Every day is day-to-day,” said Sexton.

What appears isn’t happening on any day is the investigation into Melodie’s death, which was ruled a homicide by the Tyler County justice of the peace. The investigation is being handled by the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the vaunted Texas Rangers, the investigative arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Long-time cop Bud Sturrock is the lead investigator for the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office and told The Examiner on Tuesday that the investigation is “active,” but it’s “kind of a cold case at this time.

“We’ve just been waiting for something to develop, something to show up. Someone to, you know, contact the news media or sheriff’s office or whatever to report something they may or may not know,” said Sturrock, who’s adamant the case has gone as far as it can to this point.

“It’s gone cold as far as leads and stuff, is what the point is; that’s where we’re at on it — we’re just waiting on something to break like we have to do on some of our cases,” added Sturrock. “If there’s anything else to develop on it, but I’m certain that there is.”

The Sexton family is adamant there is more to develop and are exasperated and disheartened by what they feel has been a “bungled” investigation from the start by Sturrock and a lack of interest from the Rangers.

“I get the feeling he knows what he’s doing,” said Natalie Gassen, Melodie’s older sister, of Ron Duff, the Texas Ranger assigned to the investigation. “But he seems apathetic about it.”

False start

Initial reports following Melodie’s death on June 19, 2011, indicated the then 26-year-old died due to an “accidental drowning,” which was not what the family suspected at all after Melodie’s brother-in-law, Dennis Gassen, a Pearland cop, pulled her body from the lake.

“We knew right away this wasn’t an accident,” said Sexton.

Melodie was with David Spradley, her boyfriend and Jack’s father, at the Spradley family’s lake houses in the Lake Ivanhoe community. There was a family gathering at the houses that weekend. According to Sturrock, late Saturday night, Spradley drove Melodie and Jack to the lake house they were staying at. What happened after Melodie was dropped off is where stories begin to differ, according to Spradley and his friend at the time, Dustin Storey. Identified as the only two persons of interest by Sturrock, they were the last two to see Melodie alive.

Storey told The Examiner last August he rode back with Spradley and Sexton to the lake house. Spradley denies Storey rode in the car with them and alleges Storey got a ride from someone else. Storey – who admits to drinking that night – said that while he was drinking, he wanted to swim. He said he never saw Melodie get in the lake that night.

Spradley returned to the lake about an hour or so after dropping Melodie and their son off and said that he first checked on Jack and then went outside to look for Melodie. He didn’t see her but saw Storey in the water with his back to the house. Spradley maintains he yelled “five or six” times to get Storey’s attention before he finally responded. Spradley said he asked Storey if he knew where Melodie was, to which Storey allegedly responded that he didn’t.

Storey said he was in the water, and Spradley did yell at him, but also said it was normal for Spradley to “be bossy, especially when he’s been drinking.”

Both men vehemently deny having anything to do with Melodie’s death. Both have taken lie-detector tests, and Sturrock verified that Spradley had passed his but said Storey failed part of his test. After initially agreeing to take a second test last December, Storey instead hired a lawyer and has not taken another test. Sturrock said Spradley and Storey have cooperated with the investigation, yet neither has done enough to be “cleared” as a person of interest.