A Nevada father is charged with murdering his own teenage son and people close to the victim believe the boy was shot because of his sexual orientation, KSNV reports.
Henderson police say 53-year-old Wendell Melton shot and killed his 14-year-old son, Giovanni, Thursday.
Giovanni’s former foster mom, Sonja Jones, told KSNV that Wendell was angry his son was gay and the boy had been abused for a long time.
“Giovanni was abused physically and mentally and spiritually for many, many years,” Jones told the station.
Jones explained a family member told her that the argument that led to the shooting was over Giovanni’s sexual orientation.
“He hated the fact that his son was gay,” said Jones. “I’m sure that inside of his mind, he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.”
Jones said that Wendell, a former United Airlines pilot, had threatened the boy before.
“I’m hearing his dad had caught him with his boyfriend before and pulled out a gun on him,” said Jones.
According to court records obtained by Las Vegas Now, the family had a complicated past involving a lingering custody battle over Giovanni and his sibling. According to the records, the children were abandoned by their mother while Wendell was accused of illegally having guns and threatening his family with them. Wendell was also accused of beating Giovanni.
Police said the two had been arguing before the shooting and Wendell grabbed one of the six guns he kept in the house to shoot his son.
According to Henderson police, Giovanni was not living with his family at the time of his death. It’s unclear who he stayed with. According to KSNV, it appears that Giovanni was there alone most of the time. Neighbors say they rarely saw adults inside.
His classmates at Coronado High School remembered him as a happy, kind boy.
“He always had a smile on his face,” one of Giovanni’s classmates told Las Vegas Now.
Another student said the kids in class “talked about our favorite things about him” after it was announced Giovanni was dead.
“One word to describe him; how he made us feel. How we were feeling,” the student explained. “I said that he was selfless.”
“It’s just sad. He was young and he had a lot to live for,” classmate Bailey Schultz told KSNV.
Jones, who said she loved Giovanni like he was her own child, told KSNV she hopes Wendell is brought to justice.
“I hope they throw the book at him. I hope he never sees the light of day,” said Jones. “I hope every day when he looks in the mirror, he sees his son’s face.”
Watch the local news report below: