HOUSTON — The Innocence Project of Texas is picking up the case of a Houston woman convicted of killing her husband. Sandra Melgar was sentenced to 27 years in prison in 2017 for the murder of her husband, Jaime Melgar.
"We have a renewed hope," Elizabeth "Lizz" Melgar, the couple's only child told KHOU 11. "We feel really good about where things are going."
Since it was founded in 2006, the Innocence Project of Texas has helped free or exonerate 27 men and women.
“The state’s whole theory seemed to defy the laws of gravity, much less the laws of logic and common sense," said Mike Ware, executive director at the Innocence Project of Texas. "That somehow, she pulled this horrible, brutal murder off and then staged the scene as it was, among other things and then somehow done all this, going into all the details without having blood at all on her, without any sign on her she had conducted a clean-up."
In a 2018 prison interview, Sandra Melgar told us she is innocent.
“No, I did not kill my husband, no," she told KHOU 11.
The murder happened in 2012 inside the Melgar's northwest Harris County home. Sandra told us it was a home invasion. Her husband was found stabbed to death in a closet and she was found in another closet tied up.
From the beginning, investigators attacked her story because she couldn’t remember what happened. Sandra told them she had a history of seizures. Prosecutors argued the murder weapon, a knife was found inside the home and there were no signs of forced entry.
A jury found her guilty, but there was never a motive. Sandra’s defense team argued there was no physical evidence linking her to the crime.
“She seems like a wonderful person and totally at a loss as to how all this could happen and ended up where she is today," said Ware.
Now, the work begins dissecting the case and looking for new evidence that wasn’t presented at trial.
“I believe when someone is factually innocent, completely factually innocent, eventually, there is a way to prove it," said Ware.
The Innocence Project of Texas' work on the case could take years, but they’ve already started meeting with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to look at the case file.
"We are going to keep on fighting until there is no more fight left," said Lizz Melgar.
In 2018, KHOU 11's Grace White sat down with Sandra for an interview. Click here to watch that full story.
Timeline of events
- Dec. 22, 2012 – 3:02 p.m.: Jim and Sandra run errands, including stopping at a liquor store to buy eggnog for dinner the next day with Jim's family.
- Dec. 22, 2012 – 8:59 p.m.: Jim and Sandra check out of Los Cucos on Highway 290 at Jones Road. They were celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary.
- Dec. 22, 2012 – 9:33 p.m.: Jim runs into CVS to pick up Coke and Sprite.
- Dec. 22, 2012 – We're not sure what time Jim and Sandra get home, but it's sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight. First Sandra tells investigators midnight, then later says between 10 and 11.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 7 a.m.: A neighbor notices a garage door open at the Melgar home, which he finds odd.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 4:30 p.m.: Jim's family arrives at the house for dinner. Later, when they come running out the front door yelling "call police!" a neighbor calls 911.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 4:45 p.m.: Paramedics arrive.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 4:47 p.m.: Paramedics pronounce Jim dead.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 9:42 p.m.: Sandra is taken to the Harris County Sheriff's Office for interrogation.
- Dec. 23, 2012 – 10:40 p.m.: Sandra refuses to take a polygraph exam at the request of Sgt. James Dousay.
- Dec. 24, 2012 – 2:15 a.m.: Sgt. Shawn Carrizal calls the Harris County District Attorney's Office to file murder charges against Sandra. The DA's office declines, citing a lack of evidence.
- Dec. 24, 2012 – 4:20 a.m.: Sandra is taken home from the sheriff's office.
- Dec. 24, 2012 – 4:40 a.m.: Crime scene investigators finish their investigation.
- Dec. 24, 2012 – 5:30 a.m.: The crime scene is cleared.
- Dec. 25, 2012 – 2:20 p.m.: Elizabeth "Lizz" Melgar Rose, Jim and Sandra's daughter, returns from England with her husband.
- Dec. 26, 2012 – 4:36 p.m.: Detectives receive a message from Lizz that she found a backpack with an Xbox in the garage.
- Dec. 28, 2012 – 4:41 p.m.: Police received a report of a suspicious neighbor acting strange at the scene.
- Feb. 8, 2013 – Sandra's attorney gives investigators pictures of blood on the safe in Jim's closet.
- May 31, 2013 – 10:12 a.m.: A crime scene unit is requested at one of the Melgar's rental homes after Lizz reports damage inside.
- July 21, 2014 – Sandra is charged with murder by a grand jury.
- Aug. 7, 2017 – Sandra's murder trial begins.
- Aug. 23, 2017 – A jury finds Sandra guilty of killing Jim. Sandra shrieks as District Judge Kelli Johnson reads the verdict. Before she's taken into custody, she stops and hugs Lizz one last time.
- Aug. 24, 2017 – The jury sentences Sandra to 27 years in prison.
- Oct. 6, 2017 – Sandra's lawyer, George "Mac" Secrest, files a motion for new trial, citing in sufficient evidence and prosecutorial and jury misconduct.
- Nov. 6, 2017 – District Judge Kelli Johnson, who presided over Sandra's trial, denies Secrest's motion for a new trial.
- Feb. 22, 2031 – Sandra is eligible for parole on Feb. 2, 2031.