Prosecutors on Monday dropped murder and child abuse charges against a Davie man who was accused of supplying heroin to 13-year-old Sherry Maresco shortly before her death in February 2001.
Faced with a weak case and the unrelated murder of a key witness, prosecutor Howard Scheinberg said he had to drop the charges against JosM-i Enrique Melendez, 26.
Melendez, who had been freed on bail in October, when the first cracks in the case began to appear, threw his head back in relief when he heard the news in court.
“Go in peace. Have a good life,” Broward Circuit Judge Ilona M. Holmes told Melendez after approving the prosecution’s decision.
“I’m sorry for what happened [to Maresco], but I never had anything to do with it,” Melendez said outside court as he hugged his mother, Sonia, and his attorneys Gary Ostrow and A.J. Amoroso.
The case against Melendez began to unravel when the assistant medical examiner who did the autopsy on Maresco’s body said she died of pneumonia brought on by her prior abuse of cocaine and that the heroin alone did not kill her.
The troubled seventh-grader had cocaine, heroin, marijuana, a tranquilizer and cough medicine in her system when she died. She had split her time between her mother’s home in North Lauderdale and her father’s mobile home at the Silver Lakes trailer park in Davie. Melendez also lived in the trailer park.
Maresco’s friend, Christina Delarosa, initially implicated Melendez but then changed her account when she testified in court in October.
Delarosa said she had bought heroin from Melendez and given it to Maresco. Holmes agreed to release Melendez on bail after hearing from Delarosa and the medical examiner in October.
In a tragic and, investigators say, unrelated twist, Delarosa was murdered in February. The 17-year-old was one of two workers at the Waffle House in Davie who were killed and left in a freezer.
Melendez’s criminal defense attorney, Ostrow, who handled the case at no cost to Melendez or taxpayers, praised Scheinberg “for doing the right thing.”
He said Melendez rejected an offer from the prosecution last week to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for probation.
“We felt very confident, and we were going to go to trial on this case,” Attorney Ostrow said. “We believed that he was not responsible for this girl’s death and that the jury would have agreed with us if we had to go that far.”