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Shannon Melendi’s father fighting to keep Shannon’s killer in prison

“It will be my last breath,” Luis Melendi said Friday, vowing to prevent “the monster” Butch Hinton from ever getting parole.

ATLANTA — A father’s mission to keep his daughter’s killer in prison continues without ceasing, years after she was killed, and years after her murderer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

11Alive talked with Luis Melendi Friday evening just before NBC aired a Dateline episode about the case of his daughter, Shannon, a murder that was one of the most infamous criminal cases in metro Atlanta in decades.

Shannon Melendi, an Emory University sophomore, was murdered in 1994.

Her killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison 11 years later. But he is up for parole again in 2025.

RELATED: Man convicted of killing Emory student denied parole: 'At last, we can breathe'

It is grief upon grief for Luis Melendi — still strong, he says, never broken.

“It’s been a long, long battle,” Melendi said, a battle that never ends.

Shannon was just 19 when she disappeared in March, 1994, from an off-campus, part-time job.

Hundreds of volunteers helped her parents search for her.

They found her car, with her keys inside.

And soon, the missing-person case became a kidnapping case—police uncovered evidence that an acquaintance from Shannon's part-time job, Butch Hinton, had kidnapped, raped and murdered her.

It took another 11 years, but police and prosecutors were able to put Hinton on trial, and a jury convicted him.

Hinton was sentenced to life in prison, and he later confessed.

He claimed he burned her body and disposed of the ashes. Hinton is the first person in Georgia ever to be convicted in a case in which there was no body or remains as part of the evidence.

Shannon's parents, Luis and Yvonne Melendi, turned their pain and outrage into action. Hinton was repeatedly up for parole in Georgia, and they repeatedly protested, and he’s stayed in prison — so far.

“He does have a sliver of hope. He shouldn’t have any hope at all,” Yvonne told 11Alive in January, 2020, the last time Hinton was up for parole.

The prosecutor, John Petrey, told 11Alive in 2020 that the law in this case from so long ago had not permitted him to seek life without parole or to seek the death penalty.

“Butch Hinton is an extremely dangerous sexual predator —  that phrase is too kind when you apply it to Butch Hinton,” Petrey said. "He is a monster. He was and is a predator. And he's still young enough that he could very well hurt people when (or if) he gets out.”

Then, in 2021, Luis lost Yvonne; she died of COVID-related pneumonia.

“Now I have to face it pretty much all alone,” Luis said Friday, calling Yvonne “my rock, the one that I leaned on when things about Shannon came up. I mean, this has been going on since 1994.”

Now Hinton, who will be 62 in September, is eligible for parole again in 2025 —which will be 20 years after his conviction.

Melendi is fighting, still.

“That will never end. It will be my last breath. But I will fight to make sure that Butch Hinton, the monster that he is, stays in prison where he belongs. Because he will kill again," he said.

Fighting still, he says, for justice for Shannon — grieving, but never broken.

Shannon would have turned 48 this coming October.

“I miss the future that we were supposed to have together as a family, and her with her family,” Luis said. “And I’ll never see that. It could happen to anyone. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and trusted someone she worked with.”

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