A San Francisco Superior Court judge Thursday sentenced Joseph Melcher, 27, to 200 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole for three murders and two attempted murders in separate shootings in 2006.
A jury on May 13 convicted Melcher of three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for shootings in the city’s Portola District and in Japantown.
Prosecutors claimed the crimes were racially motivated, as all the victims were Asian, but the jury concluded there was not enough evidence of hate crimes.
On Aug. 27, Melcher shot 21-year-old Robert Stanford 10 times after boxing in Stanford’s car with his own car at about 2:30 a.m. on San Bruno Avenue in the city’s Portola District. A 16-year-old friend of Stanford who was also inside the car was shot once and survived.
On Oct. 21, Melcher walked into the Flow bar on Post Street at about 9:15 p.m. and shot a 34-year-old woman, Song Sun Lee of San Bruno, twice in the back of the head, killing her. He also shot a female bartender, who survived, and then walked out to Peace Plaza and shot 22-year-old Kam Yan Li, of San Francisco, fatally wounding him.
Witnesses to the Peace Plaza shooting described hearing the shooter curse and yell out not to mess with "Johnny white boy coke dealer.”
A motive for the shootings, all of which Melcher denied committing, was never established.
Members of Stanford’s family, and friends of Li, spoke yesterday morning at Melcher’s sentencing hearing. Lee’s family was still too traumatized to attend the hearing, according to prosecutor Eric Fleming.
Stanford’s mother Janice Hom recalled her only son as an avid Oakland A’s fan who loved music and aspired to become a DJ. That night, after leaving a friend’s home following a Monopoly game, "He didn’t know he was going to be attacked, unprovoked,” Hom said. " Robert had no chance to fight for his life, at all,” she said tearfully.
"You are evil and you are a coward,” she told Melcher.
Stanford’s stepfather David Garrison angrily denounced Melcher’s "arrogance” and said he showed absolutely no remorse for the killings.
Two of Li’s friends, who were going to meet him that night to celebrate Li’s recent birthday, and came upon his body moments after the shooting, also spoke.
"You really came up with such a ridiculous story,” Eric Chan told Melcher. "I don’t know why you did this.”
During the trial, Melcher pinned the Japantown shootings on another man he said he met earlier that day. Melcher claimed the man also had a gun and wore similar clothing. "After killing three people, you still don’t have the guts to say you did it,” said another friend, who declined to give his name. "It’s pathetic.”
Judge Teri Jackson sentenced Melcher to 50 years to life without the possibility of parole for each of the murders and accompanying firearms allegations, plus 25 years to life for the attempted murders. Melcher did not speak on his own behalf.
"It’s an overwhelming situation,” said Melcher’s attorney Mark Iverson. "It’s beyond words...but I know that Mr. Melcher’s family does feel badly about what happened.”