Durham County

2 dead in Durham; carbon monoxide suspected

Cedric Melvin had not been at his home on Spruce Street in East Durham for at least a week and intended to return Wednesday morning. He called his roommate and cousin, Walter Melvin III, at 6 a.m. to tell him.

“I called 10 times, and he didn’t answer,” Melvin, 39, said Wednesday afternoon. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

A little more than three hours later someone called Cedric Melvin and told him he had found Walter Melvin unresponsive inside the one-story home. The man also said that a woman, Ashley Brandon, 27, was in the home throwing up repeatedly.

Walter Melvin, 50, and Brandon died. Police suspect carbon monoxide poisoning after finding in the kitchen a kerosene generator that was used as a power source.

Cedric Melvin and other family members said Brandon was pregnant and was staying at the house for the first time Tuesday.

Melvin said when he got to the house at 520 Spruce St. there was a strong smell of kerosene and that a generator they had been using had been moved from the backyard into the kitchen. Melvin also noticed that firefighters had opened a front window.

“All my windows had been nailed shut,” Melvin said.

The Homelite generator had been previously connected to a rusted chain attached to an iron stake in the backyard, Melvin said, with an extension cord leading to a space heater inside the house.

“It was kind of weird for me to see the generator in my house,” Cedric Melvin said. “Walter knew not to bring it in. I fill it up and leave it outside.”

Cedric Melvin said he had been living at the house for only four months. He said the power had been cut off because he was having trouble keeping up with the bills and said he and his cousin had been “toughing it out” for the last two weeks.

Meghan Musgrave, a Duke Energy spokeswoman, declined to say how long power had been shut off at 520 Spruce St., citing customer confidentiality.

Members of Walter Melvin’s family gathered early Wednesday afternoon at a home on nearby Maple Street, where he grew up. They said the man who found the victims was Brandon’s boyfriend. They also said Brandon’s family had put her out for the evening, but they did not know why.

Brandon’s family also lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood, not far from where she died, at an apartment complex on Juniper Street.

A woman who would only identify herself as Brandon’s mother in front of a first-floor apartment at Juniper Square declined comment Wednesday afternoon.

“She was my child,” the teary-eyed woman said.

Walter Melvin’s family members described him as a well-mannered, humble guy whose preferred mode of transportation was a bicycle.

Annie Melvin, the 83-year-old aunt who raised him, said she last saw her nephew on Tuesday when he stopped by to get something to eat – chicken and rice with mushroom gravy.

He would also stop by and help out his aunt by raking the yard or checking on her dogs. “He came here a lot,” Annie Melvin said. “He was raised in my house.”

Walter Melvin’s cousin, Theresa Parker, said she was overwhelmed by the news of his death.

“It doesn’t even feel real,” Parker said. “I hope I wake up and it’s all a dream.”

Walter Melvin was the father of two adult children, a son and daughter.

Another cousin, Kenneth Melvin, 45, said Walter Melvin had a few run-ins with the law when he was younger, and it was cause for shame as he grew older.

State records show that he spent most of his life in the East Durham area where he was found dead Wednesday. For a brief period in 2012, state records listed his address as the men’s homeless shelter on the eastern edge of downtown Durham.

“We all grew up together,” Kenneth Melvin said. “He always felt like because of his past he wasn’t worthy.”

News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.