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Thursday, June 7, 2012 Wilton, Iowa Vol. 118, No. 23 24 pages $1.

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'Always smiling'
Justice Marie Melton
By Derek Sawvell

January 3, 1996 May 29, 2012


Managing Editor, Advocate News

On Wednesday morning, May 30, Wilton superintendent Joe Burnett and high school principal Ken Crawford were a mere 24 hours removed from news of the second fatal accident to hit the WHS student body in six months. Theres a lot of luck in life, said Burnett. Unfortunately for the community of Wilton, the school system is again hurting due to a string of bad luck. On Tuesday, May 29, Justice Marie Melton, 16, a sophomore at WHS, was killed in an automobile accident on 104th Street, just east of Highway 38 in Wilton. (See page 7 for her obituary.) According to a release from the Muscatine County Sheriff s Office, shortly after 8 a.m. May 29, the sheriffs office was informed of two traffic accidents. The first accident was on North Isett just south of HighJustice Melton way 6. Jennifer Lee Ward, 17, of Muscatine, was driving northbound when she lost control of her vehicle, rolling over several times and coming to rest in the east ditch, according to the report. She was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics by the Durant Ambulance with non-life threatening injuries. Yet before emergency personnel arrived at the scene, Ward, who had just transferred to Wilton High School in January, contacted Melton to tell her shed been in an accident. Melton then began to head out of Wilton and was traveling west on 104th Street when she lost control of her vehicle and rolled into the south ditch. According to the report, Melton was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced deceased at the scene. The preliminary investigation indicates that Melton was aware of the Ward accident, and was attempting to travel to that accident scene. There is no evidence at this time to suggest that Melton was using her cellphone or texting when that accident occurred, said C.J. Ryan, chief deputy of the Muscatine County Sheriffs Office, in a media release. Wilton police chief Tim Leathers was the first person on the scene, responding to a 911 call from someone on Highway 38 who had seen Meltons accident. When he arrived, he could see Melton had been ejected from the vehicle and was lying face down on the ground. He also said that based on evidence at the scene, it appeared that Justice was not wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident. I checked for a pulse, but she was gone, said Leathers, who said at the time he didnt know who she was, but knew it was a Wilton teen due to the Wilton Beavers shorts she was wearing. Leathers is also pastor of Heartland Fel-

Remembering JusticeAbove, flowers, crosses and other mementos rest at Justice Melton's crash site on 104th Street. Below, the Justice Tree, a Japanese lilac, was planted at Heartland Fellowship Church. It was decorated with a stone depicting Melton's face, and several bouquets of flowers after her funeral service June 4.
Photos by Derek Sawvell

were comfortable, said Lisa, who mentioned that Justice was an organ donor. According to Lisa, she has stayed in contact with Jennifer daily since the accidents occurred. She also said that she went to the church Tuesday primarily to see Justices other two best friends, Jenna Brammeier and Olivia Reifert. I went there for those two girls. I wanted to know they were OK. I wanted to see their faces and feel their hugs, said Lisa. While her family continues to deal with the tragedy, Lisa said the outpouring support of the community has been wonderful. Its overwhelmingly beautiful, said Lisa. The hugs. The support. I never expected so much. They need my hugs. I need their hugs. Id also like to say thank you to the Wilton Caf and Sassy Stylz. In a heart beat theyd call to check on us or to see what we needed. She was also contacted by Leathers about his idea for the Justice Tree, a Japanese lilac tree that he wanted to plant at the church. Lisa agreed and the tree was recently planted (see photo). Flowers were also placed underneath and a stone with Justices face on it was also placed under the tree. Its a safer and more beautiful environment (than the accident site) for people to come and spend time, said Lisa, who said that right now, her biggest fear is area youths belief in God through this tragedy. Its not Gods fault, the kids need to know that, said Lisa of Justices death. I dont get it but it was just her time. You dont cry because someone is in heaven, you cry because of your own selfishness of what youll miss about her. My biggest fear is that kids that dont have a wonderful relationship with God will lose their trust. Thats very scary to me. We dont know why this happened If we listen close enough, perhaps some day well know. Second loss in six months At WHS, the district had just finished a commencement service May 27, without Krysten Reddick, an 18-year old senior who was killed in a car accident while on her way to school on a snowy, January day six months ago. With May 29 being the first official day of summer, Burnett and Crawford dealt with a lot of information considering that both accidents involved Wilton students. Ward is a junior at WHS and daughter of Nancy Ward. From what Crawford and Burnett were able to piece together, Ward had contacted Melton JUSTICE MELTON

lowship Church in Wilton. Melton grew up in our church and youth group, said Leathers. Its real tragic when you know the person. He also had to notify Meltons mother, Lisa Melton, of her daughters death. It was a hard thing to do Its been a long week, said Leathers. Heartland Fellowship Church opened its doors Tuesday night for anyone wanting to grieve or visit and Leathers said one of the first there to help console area youth was Lisa. Our church was open all day to provide an opportunity for kids to be together. Lisa and the kids actually came to start the healing process, said Leathers. Its OK to laugh. Its OK to cry. It was a healing time. You just feel so hopeless. You cant make it better but well do our best to memorialize her. Lisa said that Justice and Jennifer had be-

come great friends in the short time Jennifer had been at WHS. She said they even looked a bit alike and that when she sees Jennifer now, it sometimes takes her breath away. Justice was known for reaching out to new kids. She would reach out and make sure people

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