Suspect in ’87 cold case child kidnap, murder may be linked to another

Posted at 2:37 PM, September 28, 2023


SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. (Court TV) — More than three decades after a child was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered, police say they have identified his killer.

booking photo Fred Cain III

Fred Cain III is charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of kidnapping and sodomy. (Solano County District Attorney’s Office)

Fred Cain III was arrested on Sept. 18 and charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of kidnapping and sodomy. Cain, who lived in Central Point, Oregon, at the time of his arrest, waived his extradition to California.

Investigators with the Solano County District Attorney’s Office say that Cain killed Jeremy Stoner, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared from his home in Vallejo on Feb. 21, 1987. Four days after he disappeared, the child’s body was found on Sherman Island in Sacramento County. An autopsy at the time revealed he had been sexually assaulted.

Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams credited the arrest to the work of the department’s cold case unit, which was reinstated in 2014. “I am so thankful to have such dedicated cold case investigators that no matter how much time goes by they remain steadfast in their commitment to solving these horrific cases.”

Abrams said Cain was arrested after DNA identified him as the suspect in the case.

The same DNA exonerated a previous suspect in the case, who was brought to trial twice on charges of kidnapping and murder. Shawn Melton died in 2000 before the DNA results could prove his innocence.

Melton was named a suspect in 1987 by investigators who said “he appeared to have knowledge only the person responsible for the child’s death would know.” According to the LA Times, police became convinced of Melton’s guilt after his psychologist called them to say he had described fantasies about young boys.

Through both trials, Melton maintained his innocence, telling The Sacramento Union after his second trial ended in a hung jury, “If I had done it, I would own up to it. I would not waste the people’s time, the victim’s family’s time or the court’s time. The only reason I fight this is because I know I’m innocent and I want the real person to come forward or be found.”

At a news conference announcing the arrest, Abrams said Cain knew the victim, but was not living in Vallejo at the time of the murder, according to The Reporter.

After his arrest, police in Martinez, California, confirmed to both KGO and KNTV that Cain is a person of interest in another murder committed less than a month before Stoner was murdered in 1987.

The victim in the second case, Eric Coy, was killed after leaving to go to his cousin’s house in Martinez. His body was found on the grounds of Martinez Junior High, and police said he had been stabbed multiple times.