A man sentenced for a felony robbery in 2019 was recently linked to a 2018 rape in Burien and a 2002 murder in Federal Way.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a first-degree murder case and a first-degree rape case Dec. 21 against Melvin Lewis Taylor Jr., 45.
Taylor, whose last known address is in Monroe, was sentenced in 2019 by prosecutors in a separate felony robbery incident where he attempted to steal a 52-year-old woman’s purse in a White Center parking lot while putting a gun to her head. When a co-worker came to the aid of the woman, Taylor allegedly ran away while firing at both the woman and her co-worker.
Due to this sentence, his DNA was entered into a criminal database (CODIS).
The criminal database linked Taylor to the 2002 murder case and the 2018 rape case, and additional DNA testing was completed over the summer this year while both the rape and the murder investigations were referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Dec. 18, the office says.
“The defendant is charged with two very violent crimes that have marked similarities despite being committed 16 years apart,” charging documents state. “In both instances, the defendant targeted vulnerable middle aged, small in stature women who were strangers to him and who lived and/or worked on the streets.”
In both cases, Taylor allegedly raped both victims in alleys behind commercial buildings late at night, and had removed their shoes and clothes in similar ways.
Taylor’s arraignment on the murder charge and the rape charge is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 7 in the GA courtroom of the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. He remains in custody at the Monroe Corrections Center for the first-degree attempted robbery with a firearm and second-degree assault convictions.
According to the charging documents:
On Feb. 4, 2002, a landscaping crew found remains of a deceased woman, later identified as 43-year-old Linetra Thornton, behind the Federal Way QFC grocery store at 31217 Pacific Highway South in a small alley alcove near the loading dock.
Thornton had visible trauma to her face, a deep laceration to her forehead and was nude from the waist down with her pants and underwear hanging off of one leg. The scene also showed blood stains and strands of hair on nearby walls, “suggesting Thornton had been the victim of a violent assault.”
Medical examiners determined she was strangled to death and classified her death as a homicide.
Evidence of sexual assault was found on the scene and during the autospy, concluding a single source of male DNA, but at the time, the CODIS database did not find any potential suspects.
Thornton was said to have been working as a prostitute along Pacific Highway South, and weighed less than 100 pounds at just under 5 feet tall.
On May 27, 2018, a woman reported she had been sitting on a bench outside of the Burien City Hall, 400 SW 152nd St., when a man approached her, pressed a pistol to her side, and ordered her to come with him.
The woman, then 51 and homeless, later told police she complied with the man’s orders and followed him to a nearby alley. Taylor allegedly grabbed the woman by the shoulders and the woman told the man to stop, to which Taylor told her to shut up.
Taylor allegedly pulled down her right pant leg, “leaving her pants and her underwear hanging off her left leg.” Although the woman attempted to run away, Taylor grabbed the woman and raped her at gunpoint. Afterward, the woman claimed Taylor thanked her and walked away, according to documents.
The woman is about 5 feet tall. Taylor is about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds.
When Federal Way police detectives met with Taylor on Nov. 19, 2020, he recalled “with striking clarity” a past encounter with a prostitute at the Federal Way QFC loading dock area, but provided vague details to police about his actions after the encounter.
During the interview with detectives in November, a DNA cheek swab was taken from Taylor. The female DNA on the 2002 evidence matched that of Thornton, while the male DNA on the swabs and 2002 evidence matched Taylor.
Charging documents state the probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random from the United States population with the same profile as Taylor is one in 8.6 quadrillion.
This story originally appeared in the Seattle Weekly, a sister publication to The Herald.