Elkhart man sentenced to life in connection to brutal beating death of Grapeland woman

Elkhart man sentenced to life in connection to brutal beating death of Grapeland woman
James henderson (Source: Houston County Jail)
James henderson (Source: Houston County Jail)
Brenna Theuer (Houston County Jail)
Brenna Theuer (Houston County Jail)
Vanessa Melson (Source: Facebook)
Vanessa Melson (Source: Facebook)

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - After a pre-sentencing investigation was conducted, a Houston County judge sentenced the 41-year-old Elkhart man who was convicted of aggravated kidnapping in connection to the brutal 2015 beating death of Vanessa Melson to life in prison Thursday.

Robert David Mobley Jr. was convicted of first-degree aggravated kidnapping on August 25.

In addition to the life sentence, Mobley's sentence included a $2,500 fine, said Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar. She also said that Mobley will get credit for the time he has served in jail since November 3, 2015, which is the day he was booked in to the Houston County Jail.

The arrest affidavit for Henderson said that on June 17, 2015, Jeff Melson, Vanessa Melson's father, saw his daughter leave his residence at about 11 p.m. and get into a gray 2014 Chevrolet pickup. In a video interview with a Houston County Sheriff's Office investigator, Jeff Melson said that he recognized the driver of the pickup as Mobley and that it was the last time he saw Vanessa Melson alive, the affidavit stated.

During his jury trial, Mobley testified that Vanessa Melson and he were "hanging out" at Melson's father's house. According to Mobley, drugs, such as methamphetamine, marijuana, and a substance called wax, were present, and Vanessa was under the influence of one or more.

"Vanessa was going through something," said Mobley. "She was pretty high. She was tripping a lot. She was seeing things that weren't really there. That was getting me in a frustrating mode because I couldn't snap her out of it."

Mobley testified to leaving the house, but added that he returned, following a conversation that he had with Melson on her father's phone.

At this point, Mobley said that he and Melson started having sex, but Mobley stopped because he could hear Melson's father awake nearby.

The attorney for the state later questioned Mobley regarding this testimony, referring to a video-recorded conversation he had with law enforcement, where Mobley said that Melson's father was not in the house. In court, Friday, Mobley did not recall saying that.

Mobley's recall of the rest of the night's events continued, recounting that Melson was still under the influence of drugs.

"She kept saying, 'If you tell me to do it, I'll do it. Where is it? Where is it?'" said Mobley. "I figured out later that she was trying to rob her father."

Mobley stated that he hit the record button on his cellphone, to record Melson's conversation. The state later questioned him regarding this recording, asking why it wasn't in evidence. Mobley testified that he hadn't had time to look for it.

The state countered by referencing the video-recorded interview with law enforcement, where Mobley said that he had deleted the video. Mobley did not recall this information being said.

During his testimony, Mobley continued his recounting of what happened the night in question, telling the jury that, at this point, he tried leaving to go to his mother's house. Melson, however, wanted to go with him. Mobley said that he wouldn't let her, so she changed her mind and said she wanted to go to Henderson's house.

Mobley and Vanessa Melson arrived at the home Henderson shares with Theuer, his girlfriend at about 1 a.m. on June 17, 2015. Henderson and Theuer said in video statements that Mobley and Melson were in a heated argument that escalated to the point that it became physical, the affidavit stated.

"In separate interviews, both Henderson and Theuer state that Mobley was beating Vanessa Melson as well as shooting her up repeatedly with methamphetamine," the affidavit stated. "Mobley told both Henderson and Theuer that Melson was a snitch and had to be dealt with, so he could wash his hands of the matter."

Henderson allegedly told authorities that when he and Mobley went outside, the other man told him that he would kill him if he called law enforcement.

"Henderson, in fear for his life, agreed to be quiet and, in his words, told Mobley to, 'handle your business,'" the affidavit stated.

In her video statement, Theuer told authorities that Vanessa Melson was screaming in pain at 6 a.m. on June 17, 2015, adding that she was begging for her life and to be allowed to see her children, the affidavit stated.

"Robert Mobley would only tell her to shut the f--- up," the affidavit stated. "Theuer confronted Mobley and told him to stop. Then, according to Theuer, Mobley approached her and told her she would be next if she did not shut up and that he would kill her if she contacted law enforcement."

The affidavit stated that as the beating got worse, Theuer told Henderson she was going to call 911, but he told her to sit down and shut up before she was next. Theuer told authorities that because she was in fear for her life that she fled to the back of the house.

About 15 minutes later, Vanessa Melson grew quiet, and Theuer went back into the den area of the home, where she saw Mobley and Henderson facing away from her and looking "at Vanessa Melson's still body laying partially in the laundry room and partially in the garage," the affidavit stated.

At that point, Theuer ran out of the home, and Henderson joined her a short time later, the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, Mobley showed up at Henderson's home unannounced on July 4, 2015 and asked if Theuer "could keep her mouth shut or would he have to do it for her." Henderson allegedly told Mobley that he would make sure that his girlfriend kept her mouth shut.

On July 7, 2015 cadaver dogs found Vanessa Melson's partially buried on Henderson's property about 115 yards southeast of his home. A portion of the body was protruding from the ground. Texas Rangers were called in to assist with processing the scene and to exhume the body.Vanessa Melson's body was taken to a medical examiner's office.

Henderson and Theuer were both arrested on outstanding warrants on July 30, 2015. They both agreed to talk to the investigator that requested the arrest affidavit.

"James Eddie Henderson stated he had burned what he knew by personal knowledge to be Vanessa Melson's white purse, cell phone, and all the purse's contents," the affidavit stated. "He continued by saying that he poured lamp fluid on the items to ensure they completely burned."

Henderson told Mobley on June 17 and again on July 4, 2015 that he needed to destroy Vanessa Melson's belongings, so law enforcement officers wouldn't find it, the affidavit stated.

In one of her later interviews, Theuer told the HCSO investigator that she had given Vanessa Melson's boots to a woman in Palestine, the affidavit stated. After HCSO investigators traveled to Palestine and recovered the boots, they showed them to Henderson, and he allegedly confirmed they belonged to Vanessa Melson.

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