Gang member guilty in retrial

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Jamar Frazier, now convicted twice of killing Chris Melton in 2012. His first conviction was reversed on appeal, leading to last week’s retrial in Knox County Criminal Court.

The decade-long saga of a notorious street gang member from Chattanooga accused of murder took another turn Wednesday when his retrial ended with him convicted of a lesser offense in Knox County Criminal Court. 

Jamar Laquinn Frazier, 33, was found guilty of second-degree murder for the killing of Christopher Melton, 19,  in 2012. Frazier had been accused of first-degree murder, but jurors chose the lesser included offense following a three-day trial that included testimony from 14 experts and eyewitnesses. 

Frazier was originally convicted of killing Melton in 2016, but he was freed three years later when the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his first-degree murder conviction. The appellate court ruled the trial judge had improperly allowed evidence that Frazier had been seen with a firearm the day before Melton’s death.

The appellate court also ruled that jurors shouldn’t have been told of his “possible involvement in the killing of a witness to the shooting in this case,” court records show. 

That witness, a man named Robert Reed, was shot to death a few days after Melton was killed. Prosecutors noted similarities between the two cases (for instance, each man died of a single gunshot wound to the head) yet no one has ever been charged with killing Reed and his murder remains officially unsolved.

In this week’s retrial, Assistant DAs Hector Sanchez and Larry Dillon told jurors that Knoxville Police Department officers responded to a shooting at 131 Overbrook Drive in South Knoxville on July 3, 2012, according to DA’s Office spokesperson Sean McDermott.

“The investigation showed that Frazier was part of a group called the Black Crime Family, a group Frazier claimed to be a rap record label but authorities know to be a criminal street gang affiliated with the Gangster Disciples,” McDermott said. “Frazier suspected the victim stole two ounces of marijuana from the group. Other members of the group tracked the victim to Overbrook Drive, assaulted him, and held him there until Frazier arrived.”

He continued: “Witnesses at the scene who saw the fight said Frazier arrived in a maroon Jeep Cherokee and chased the victim into the woods, brandishing a pistol. Frazier then shot the victim in the head.”

After the shooting, Frazier fled to Chattanooga where he was apprehended fifteen days later by the U.S. Marshals Service. KPD Investigator Tim Riddle later interrogated Frazier, whose account of events changed multiple times during the interview, McDermott said.

Criminal Court Judge Scott Green presided over Frazier’s trial and is scheduled to oversee his sentencing hearing on June 24. McDermott said he faces a 15- to 25-year prison term with no chance of parole and prosecutors will be pushing for the maximum sentence.  

Published on April 30, 2021