Fatal Errors

A 13-year old girl suffocated after snorting heroin with a friend. Then came the hysteria, lies, and missteps.

Christina followed Derek to his bedroom and sat in a chair doing her nails while chatting with him. He dozed off sometime after midnight and slept until Sherry's pager went off on his dresser. It was between 11 and 11:30 Monday morning.

Derek walked into the living room to find Sherry on the floor near the couch, a pillow beneath her head. Derek told her it was time to get up, but she didn't respond. He looked closer. "White stuff" and blood were coming from her mouth, and the bottom sides of her arms were blue. "I mean, I -- I knew what happened, obviously."

Derek roused Christina and Casey, who initially thought he was joking. They followed him into the living room. Christina "took off screaming, throwing up, and I went into the kitchen and threw up and called the ambulance." He believed Casey also threw up yet seemed detached. He "just, like, stood there. And the only words that he told me was, "That's life.'"

Attorney Gary Ostrow notes that Melendez cooperated with police and terms the case against his client an "outrage"
Attorney Gary Ostrow notes that Melendez cooperated with police and terms the case against his client an "outrage"

After paramedics and police left later that afternoon, the three headed back to Silver Oaks in Derek's Caddy. During the interview Peluso asked Derek what had been said.

A: When we got in the car, Casey asked where his other shirt was, OK? And Chris -- Christina... said, "Remember last night when Sherry threw up on you? She got blood on you." And he said,... "That's when I got up"... -- 'cause she was laying on top of him, like on his chest. So when she threw up, he had to, like, lift her up... so he could get up and go change his shirt.

Q: Uhm, hmm.

A: And he was like, "Yeah," and that's when I dropped her back down on the couch.... When he said that, I like stopped, and it like all went through my head... So you guys were right there when she's throwing up blood and you guys didn't say nothing.

Then Peluso asked him if he knew where the shirt was.

A: I looked around for it today, and I couldn't find it. Because... Sherry threw up on Casey sometime after I had went to bed. Now to me I think she threw up right there on the couch where the blood was on the couch.

Q: Now you're talking about the blood on the portion of the couch by the door?

A: Right -- right by where she was on the ground, yes. Because there was blood up on the couch.

Q. It wasn't a heavy concentration, though.

A: It was... when I opened up the, the cushions, it was all running down, stuck together. There was a good [amount] of blood on the couch. But the thing is when -- the way they were saying it was like they were laying there... Right, but right then they should have -- they should have done something.

Q. Oh, without a doubt -- without a doubt. It's not normal for someone to spit up blood.

A: No, it's not.

Q: Especially a 13-year-old.

A: And Christina and Casey both saw that there was blood on his shirt. And he even got up to change it. And they left her there. Which also brings me back to Christina's calling me today.

Early that afternoon Christina called Derek and said detectives were at her home. She and Casey were going to get a lawyer, Derek told police, "because you guys were coming down on [Christina and Casey] hard." Christina said she had something to tell Derek, something she had not told him before, but he replied he didn't want to hear any more. He eventually hung up on her.

But an hour and a half after giving his statement, Derek dialed the Delarosa-Mulhall home. Police were taping as Derek and Christina agreed to meet. Christina was guarded. "I don't want to say it on -- on your phone or mine...." Christina made several vague references, enough that Derek understood they were to get together at a place near her home in Silver Oaks.

About 15 minutes later, they met, and Christina began probing Derek, unaware that he was wearing a police wire. "Well, you -- did you tell them everything -- every little thing that you remember?" Four more times Christina pressed for Derek's recollection of events.

The detectives were skeptical, accusing her of lying, Christina told Derek. "They act like, like we knew, like it was all our fault. Like, oh, we watched, sat there and watched her, you know," she said. Christina wondered why detectives had not taken Sherry's beeper or purse when they left Derek's house Monday afternoon. She also noted a marijuana roach "was right out there" but had been overlooked by police.

Christina told Derek she knew nothing about Sherry using drugs the Sunday before her death. However Christina said she had steered detectives to a home where Sherry might have gone to purchase drugs. It was the mobile home where Melendez and Robles were staying.

The investigation took some odd turns as investigators tried to zero in on the source of the drugs that killed Sherry. They initially focused on Melendez, then shifted their sights to Robles, but in the end Robles walked and Melendez was charged.

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