On March 26, 1994, the 19-year-old Emory University student Shannon Melendi went missing. She was last seen a softball game in DeKalb County, GA, where she was scorekeeping. Butch Hinton, the umpire at that game, was convicted of her kidnapping and death a decade later despite the fact that her body was never found. Tonight’s Dateline delves further into the crimes of Butch Hinton.
Hinton was an employee at Delta airlines who served time for arson and insurance fraud in 1995, the year after Shannon went missing. He was connected to Shannon’s murder because an anonymous caller phoned into the hotline at Shannon’s college, Emory University, claiming to be her kidnapper. He claimed that Shannon was alright, just lonely.
He was calling from a public phone booth where he said he had taped one of her rings. Detectives were able to connect the cloth bag the ring was inside of to Delta Airlines, where Butch worked. The phone booth was near a Waffle House restaurant where Butch was frequently seen. When they searched his house, they found nine rolls of the same tape that was used the tape the ring to the phone booth.
Butch later admitted that he gave his wife Michelle another one of Shannon’s rings right after he killed Shannon. He told his wife that he had bought it from a friend who had broken up with their fiancee. “I’m sorry it came off another lady,” he chillingly told his wife. “Don’t think of it like that.”
According to Butch’s story Shannon was cooperative with him after he kidnapped her. He promised her he would let her go after he sold her car, which had been left at a gas station with the keys in the ignition. Butch was secretly hoping that someone would steal the car to throw the police on a wild goose chase.
He took her home and handcuffed her to a bed leg and raped her. He left her there listening to the radio while he went to see The Mighty Ducks with his niece, nephew, and their parents. When he returned home he raped her again and then panicked about what he was going to do so he strangled her with one of his ties.
He claimed he burned Shannon’s body in his backyard, but none of Shannon’s remains were ever found, and her father doesn’t believe that Butch has shared the full story.
How was Butch caught?
The cloth bag authorities found the ring in was unique to Delta Airlines, where he worked in the machine shop. Metals particles found on the masking tape were unique to the industry. The type of tape matched nine rolls found at Hinton’s home.
In 2005, Butch was sentenced to life in prison for Shannon’s death. He was the first person in the state of George to be convicted of murder without a body or a crime scene.
On July 17, 2006, Butch admitted to killing Shannon. “If I have to stay in a cell for 23 hours a day for the rest of my life, at least I can breathe,” Butch said. “She can’t.'”
“The prison that I am in is no comparison to the prison inside of me,” he continued.