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‘Predator’ locked up for life after sexually assaulting and murdering neighbor with Down syndrome at apartment where she lived alone, wrapping body in Hannah Montana blanket

David Jasante Cunningham, Melia "MJ" Jones

David Jasante Cunningham, Melia “MJ” Jones (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office; Facebook)

The neighbor convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a 23-year-old woman with Down syndrome inside the Virginia apartment where she was living on her own has been sentenced to spend three life terms in prison.

David Jasante Cunningham, 42, committed the unconscionable crimes of aggravated murder and two counts of object sexual penetration in the Dec. 2021 death of Melia Angelic Jones, a jury of the defendant’s peers found on Feb. 9. At sentencing on Thursday, Cunningham was ordered to serve three life sentences.

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter reacted to that sentence by saying that this “predator” will only be “free to reflect” upon the depths of his “vile” crimes for the rest of his days.

“Today, a predator has been held accountable for the knowing, premeditated sexual assault and murder of a precious human being. For the rest of his life, the defendant will be housed in a prison, free to reflect and reckon on his vile and vicious acts. He deserves no better,” Porter said. “But I do not wish to focus on the defendant. Instead, I choose to focus on the wonderful, love-filled life lived by Melia Jones.”

“Melia will always be remembered for her laughter, her dancing, and the happiness she brought to the lives of others,” the top prosecutor said.

NBC Washington reported that the day before she was murdered Jones could be seen on video dancing while waiting for her food to be delivered.

Prosecutors said and jurors were persuaded that Cunningham was watching his neighbor and followed her into her apartment, where she had recently started living on her own as she worked to support herself. There, he sexually assaulted and killed Jones before trying to make it look like robbery was the motive, prosecutors said.

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Tragically, Jones’ father and stepmother were the ones who found her dead in her apartment on Dec. 7, 2021. Their loved one was strangled and had a plastic bag on her head. Her body was wrapped in a Hannah Montana blanket in bed.

Taken together, authorities concluded Jones the victim of an “extremely violent murder.” The Medical Examiner ruled Jones’ death a homicide on Dec. 8, 2021, authorities said.

Though Cunningham initially claimed he only kissed Jones and later claimed they engaged in consensual sexual activity, his DNA was found under her the victim’s fingernails. The former Coca-Cola warehouse worker had a crack cocaine addiction, his attorney Damon Colbert reportedly said in 2022 when asserting his client’s innocence. The defense said Cunningham’s DNA at the scene could explained by his at times “amorous” friendship with Jones.

An obituary said that Jones lived on South Van Dorn Street, in Alexandria, Va., which is right off of I-395 and minutes of driving away from the Van Dorn Street metro station.

Born in Puerto Rico, Jones went on to graduate from Mount Vernon High School and from the Pulley Career Center in Alexandria.

“While in High School, Melia participated in two Flags across America events honoring deceased veterans at Arlington National Cemetery, She also participated in multiple community cleanup events. Also during High School, she participated in the Work Awareness and Transition (WAT) Program. During October 2015-June 2016, she worked at Fort Belvoir [Army] Commissary and was awarded Employee of the Month,” the obituary said. “While at Pulley Career Center, she worked at Crystal City Marriott Hotel as a housekeeper and banquet service representative. She was awarded Employee of the Month on two separate occasions. While employed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as Customer Service representative, she earned the Perfect Attendance Award and Employee of the Month for Accomplishments and Exceeding Expectations. In the role as Kiosk Stocker (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport), Melia was awarded the Perfect Attendance Award during Oct 2019-Mar 2020.”

“Melia enjoyed dancing and singing to her favorite artists including Michael Jackson, Big Time Rush, Elvis Presley, Arianna Grande, Justin Bieber, all gospel artists,” her obituary continued. “Melia deeply loved each member of her family, and richly enjoyed family, friends, and classmates gatherings. She will forever be remembered for her gentle and sweet spirit. She was baptized and a believer in Jesus Christ.”

Cunningham reportedly did not apologize at sentencing and is considering an appeal.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.