Attempted carjacker gets maximum sentence

Derek M. Melendez

Derek M. Melendez

A carjacker may not have been successful in stealing a vehicle, but he did steal one woman’s belief in innocence and a community’s trust in one another.

For survivor of the incident Tamitha Burgoon, the perpetrator stripped her of her belief that all people are good.

“I used to believe that people were good and just made bad decisions, now I know there are just bad people out there,” Burgoon said.

Derek M. Melendez, 30, admitted on Aug. 14 to armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon and received the maximum 36-year sentence Monday.

During sentencing, Smith’s surveillance video showed Burgoon pull up to a gas pump and begin fueling her vehicle. While she waits for her tank to fill, Burgoon checks her phone and that’s when Melendez is seen approaching her and pointing the gun at her chest demanding she hand over her keys.

Prosecutor Chelsea Mazza said the incident not only left an impact on Burgoon and her family, but on the entire community, too.

“To say this is a lessor robbery is completely inaccurate,” said Mazza. “That is a slap to Mrs. Burgoon, and her family and to the entire Douglas County. We don’t see this type of crime here. Mrs. Burgoon was the type of person who trusted people and took the minute to help anyone out, now she is not. And I’m sure many people in Douglas County feel that same way. No one considered the risk of simply filling up gas until what this defendant did.” 

Burgoon said she constantly fears for her life and has to remind herself every day that she is alive.

“I’m not the same person I used to be,” said Burgoon. “Most of my character is gone and the little things in life that used to make me smile. I used to be positive and happy.”

Melendez had a .16 blood alcohol content when he was arrested for robbery with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.

Defense attorney Nadine Morton objected to Burgoon’s statement, saying it suggested the weapon used in the carjacking case was used in the shooting death of Dresslerville resident Eric Wyatt Jr.

Wyatt was shot and killed about an hour prior to the carjacking at Smith’s. Washoe Tribe Police and Douglas County deputies were searching for Melendez when the carjacking occurred.

District Judge Thomas Gregory overruled Morton.

“He is not here to be sentenced on that case, but the whole reason the sheriff’s office got involved in this case is because of the investigation of the homicide,” said District Judge Thomas Gregory. “It is her mindset that the gun had something to do with the homicide and the statement stays in its entirety.”

The Dresslerville shooting is being investigated by the FBI because it occurred on Washoe Tribal Land.


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