Sam & Rosa Melena Found Near Death, Sam Later Died; AWOL Army Soldier Lawrence Todd Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder (November 14, 1978)

The elderly owners of a beloved local grocery are brutally attacked and left for dead. Working with little beyond a vague witness description, Lt. Joe Kenda leads a state-wide manhunt to catch a pair of cold-blooded killers before they disappear for good. -Blood Red Highway, Homicide Hunter (S3,E8)

On November 14, 1978, store owners, Sam & Rosa Melena, were robbed and left for dead in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Sam Melena was found with multiple stab wounds and Rosa was badly beaten but both were alive. But Sam Melena later died of his injuries in the hospital and Rosa was still in critical condition. In the course of an official murder investigation, Lt. Kenda learned the persons who robbed the grocery store got away with $32 and witnesses described two people running from the scene, a black man and a white woman with red hair. Kenda went to the hospital to interview Rosa Melena while she was alert and observed the pattern of a sole on her face. They took pictures. Rosa told Kenda she heard someone ask to use the store phone and then heard a loud crash. When she went to investigate, she witnessed a black man stabbing Sam and when he saw her, he attacked her too. After the interview, Kenda ordered a canvas of the area and found a new lead.

One neighbor said the description of the suspects sounded like the couple who lived in a basement apartment in his building. Lawrence Eugene Todd was in the Army. On the day of the crime, Lawrence and Vicki Locklin asked for 20 cents to make a phone call at the grocery store. Kenda determined the phone call was a distraction device used to help Lawrence catch the grocery store owners off guard. Kenda went looking for the pair in their basement apartment but they were gone. Although, during the search of the abandoned apartment, they found some important documents. The two were from Visalia, California. Todd was in the Army stationed at Fort Carson. Kenda issued an all points bulletin statewide and nationwide to help find them right away. Meanwhile, Kenda learned from a background search that Vicki Locklin had a minor record of shoplifting in Visalia, California. And Lawrence Todd had one record, an assault with a deadly weapon in California. (Why does the Army recruit Todd?)

“When people become desperate, it’s very easy to do desperate things.” -Lt. Joe Kenda

Meanwhile Kenda got some information from Fort Carson and learned from a sergeant in his unit that Todd had a lot of problems in the last several months because he hated the Army. He wanted out any way he could get out, then he went AWOL. The sergeant told Kenda he believed he knew where they would go. They wanted to go back to California. It was all the pair could talk about; they wanted to go back home to Visalia. Kenda asked the Denver Police Department to check all the truck stops in the area but the deadly duo had already hitched a ride with a trucker. Someone witnessed them catch a ride with a trucker and called the cops. The same trucker was pulled over and in deed Lawrence Todd and Vicki Locklin were in the truck. During the interrogation, Vicki Locklin told Kenda what happened. She said they were poor and needed money. Lawrence grabbed Sam from behind and started strangling him.

Vicki said Lawrence demanded she throw him a knife and he stabbed Sam multiple times. He cut his hand on the knife when he did it. He then went after Rosa, strangled her, and kicked her in the head. He went back to Sam and kicked him repeatedly before they grabbed the money and left the store. There was no interrogation with Lawrence Todd as he asked for a lawyer. Kenda compared Lawrence’s shoes to the bruise on Rosa’s face and it was a match. They also found the knife Vicki told them they ditched after the crime. Both defendants were indicted for aggravated robbery, attempted murder, and first degree murder. Vicki Locklin cut a deal with the prosecution in exchange for her testimony and leniency; she was sentenced to ten years in prison. Lawrence Todd was found guilty and he was sentenced to life plus 98 years in prison. Kenda was disgusted Lawrence Todd took a life for $32 and said he needed to be in a cage and never get out.

“You bastards, these are little old people, running a bread and milk store in the middle of nowhere, and you’re going to attack them for the contents of the register. I was angry to the core. You’re not going to do this in my city, you’re just not.” -Lt. Joe Kenda

Source: Blood Red Highway, Homicide Hunter, Investigation Discovery

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Warrants Issued in Grocery Death
2 Suspects Sought in Slaying of 83-Year-Old Grocer
Locklin Confessed, Said Todd Killed Grocer: Police
Jury reaches no verdict in Sam Melena’s murder case
Exclusive Interview: Meet the Homicide Hunter
Joe Kenda: 11 Essential Facts about TV’s “Homicide Hunter”
The US Military Recruited Violent Felons to Support the War Efforts
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado
Homicide Hunter: 10 Active Duty Military and Veteran Murder Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery
Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘Blood Red Highway’ on ID: AWOL Fort Carson Soldier Kills Store Owner Sam Melena for $32 (November 19, 2013)
Blood Red Highway | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S3,E8)
Blood Red Highway | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
Blood Red Highway | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Blood Red Highway | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)

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