Grapeland man accused of tampering with crime scene involving slain woman

Grapeland man accused of tampering with crime scene involving slain woman
James Henderson (Source: Houston County Jail)
James Henderson (Source: Houston County Jail)
Robert Mobley Jr. (Source: Smith County Jail)
Robert Mobley Jr. (Source: Smith County Jail)
Brenna Theuer (Source: Houston County Jail)
Brenna Theuer (Source: Houston County Jail)
Vanessa Melson (Source: Facebook)
Vanessa Melson (Source: Facebook)

A 22-year-old Grapeland man was arrested and charged with two felony charges in connection to allegations that he and several other people broke into a residence on County Road 1737 looking for anything having to do with Vanessa Melson, the woman whose body was found in a shallow grave in Houston County on July 7.

Jon Austin Cheatham was arrested and charged with first-degree felony burglar with the intent to commit another felony and third-degree felony tampering with or fabricating evidence.

According to an arrest affidavit, a Houston County Sheriff's Office deputy interviewed Cheatham on July 31. During the interview, Cheatham said he and two other people forced their way into the home located in the 300 block of CR 1737 on July 5 by breaking the glass on the back door and unlocking the deadbolt.

The affidavit stated that in a previous interview with an HCSO investigator on July 8, Cheatham did not mention that he had broken into the home. At that time, he allegedly said that he did it because he knew Brenna Michelle Theuer, 35, of Crockett, and James Eddie Henderson, 35, of Elkhart, were in the home and not responding to their knocking.

However, in a July 27 interview, Cheatham said he and the others broke into the home knowing that Theuer and Henderson weren't there because they wanted to find anything having to do with Melson.

The affidavit stated that "none in the party contacted law enforcement for help or for the purpose of relaying information and or knowledge of evidence that might indicate Vanessa Melson had been there."

"As a result, law enforcement's ability to locate and identify possible evidence related to the disappearance and death of Vanessa Melson was greatly compromised," the press release stated.
On July 30, both Theuer and Henderson said in separate interviews that after they returned home on July 5, they found that their house had been broken into via the back door and had been ransacked, the affidavit stated. Items were strewn all over the house, and the contents of most drawers and storage areas had been removed.

Then on Aug. 21, an HCSO deputy interviewed a witness that also showed up at the home on CR 1737 in search of Melson on July 5. The witness told the deputy that when she and her husband got there, they saw Cheatham and two other people leaving the house, the affidavit stated.
"Cheatham told them if they were friends of Vanessa not to go into the residence," the affidavit stated.

The tampering with evidence charge stems from allegations that he took shovels from the home on CR 1737 to dig around the property in search of Melson and then took them back to his residence, the affidavit stated. The affidavit stated that he didn't tell law enforcement that "he had been there, taken the shovels, had any information that might have assisted with the location of Melson."

Two HCSO investigators later recovered the shovels at Cheatham's home. In a later interview, Henderson said that Robert David Mobley Jr., another suspect in the case, had told him to destroy the shovels, but they were removed on or about the same date that Cheatham allegedly removed them.

Henderson  and Brenna Theurer have both been charged with third-degree felony tampering with or fabricating evidence, a press release stated. He said the couple has been in custody at the Houston County Jail since July 30.
Felony warrants were also issued for Mobley 39, of Palestine, who is currently being held in a federal holding facility in the "northeast portion of the United States. The third-degree felony warrants that have been issued are for obstruction of justice and retaliation.
When Mobley serves out his federal sentence, he will be returned to Houston County, Shearer said.

"Sheriff Bobbitt is still waiting for forensic and other laboratory results that may provide more evidence," the press release stated. "Pending the findings from the Medical Examiner's Office more charges may be filed. This case is still very active and deputies are working diligently on this case."

According to the arrest affidavits for Henderson and Theuer, Mobley and Melson arrived at the home Henderson shares with Theurer, his girlfriend, at about 1 a.m. on June 17. Henderson and Theurer 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 Theurer state that Mobley was beating Vanessa Melson as well as shooting her up repeatedly with methamphetamine," the affidavit stated. "Mobley told both Henderson and Theurer 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, Theurer told authorities that Vanessa Melson was screaming in pain at 6 a.m. on June 17, 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. "Theurer confronted Mobley and told him to stop. Then, according to Theurer, 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, Theurer told Henderson she was going to call 911, but he told her to sit down and shut up before she was next. Theurer 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 Theurer 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, Theurer 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 and asked if Theurer "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, 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.

Copyright 2015 KTRE. All rights reserved.