Conviction in Cunningham trial

Conviction in Cunningham trial
(File photo)

By Leslie Golden |

David Jasante Cunningham, 41, was convicted of aggravated murder and two counts of object sexual penetration on Feb. 9, according to a news release.

On Dec 7, 2021, Alexandria police responded to a residential apartment building on South Van Dorn Street where they found Melia Jones, a woman diagnosed with down syndrome, 23, deceased. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later determined the cause of death to be asphyxia. Upon further investigation, it was determined Jones had also suffered injuries consistent with a sexual assault.

“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,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said in a statement. “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.”

Evidence admitted at trial included surveillance video of the defendant interacting with the victim, fingerprint and DNA evidence and a video testimony with police detectives where Cunningham admitted to sexual contact with the victim.

The date of the sentencing hearing has yet to be determined. Cunningham faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center pending the sentencing hearing.