SOLANO COUNTY — A 6-year-old boy was kidnapped from Solano County and killed in 1987. Now, the man accused of the shocking crime is expected back in California soon after his arrest nearly four decades later.
Fred Cain, 69, was arrested last week in Oregon at his home in Gold Hill. He is now facing charges of murdering, kidnapping, sodomizing and sexually abusing Jeremy Stoner.
Stoner's mother told CBS13 Tuesday evening that the family is overwhelmed by this news and they were not yet ready to speak on camera. A psychologist weighed in, describing the emotional toll this might have on the family as new discovery comes to light 36 years later.
"I think it must be hard because it probably opened up all these post-trauma feelings," said Dr. Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist. "At the same time, it does involve a lot of revisiting the feeling they had when they first found out that their child had been murdered."
Stoner first went missing on February 21, 1987. Four days later, his body was found on Sherman Island in Sacramento County — nearly 40 miles from his home in Vallejo.
"It really rocked the foundation of Solano County," Krishna A. Abrams, the Solano County district attorney, said Tuesday at a news conference on Cain's arrest.
Back in 1987, Shawn Melton was mistakenly arrested and charged with Stoner's murder after offering to volunteer to help police investigate the child's death. Police felt he knew things about the case that only the killer could know.
"I know what was most important to him was that people accepted the fact that he was innocent of these charges," said Peter Foor, defense attorney for Melton.
Foor represented Melton as his case went to trial twice; each ended with hung juries and a mistrial. Thirty-five years later, in October 2022, lead investigator Kevin Coelho decided to take another look at the cold case.
After using new technology to obtain DNA evidence from Stoner's autopsy, Coelho sent it off to a lab for testing. They found that Melton's DNA did not match the DNA found on Stoner's body. So, the investigation into whose DNA it was continued.
Melton was never exonerated in the public's eye until now. He died in 2000 and would never know if investigators would find the right man.
"I know Shawn would be elated if he were here. Unfortunately, he is not. He died with this giant cloud hanging over him," said Foor.
Abrams is now praising new technology for bringing the right man to justice after all these years.
"Although Mr. Melton is not here, the DNA, the science, did lead to the right person and we hope he's held responsible," Abrams said.
Finding the true killer?
Investigators say the same DNA evidence that exonerated Melton also proves that Fred Cain is the man responsible for killing and sexually abusing Stoner. He was arrested in Oregon on September 18, 2023.
When the news broke, it was just as shocking to Cain's own family as the Stoner family. CBS13 spoke Tuesday night with Cain's niece, Cris Breffle Delaney.
"When you heard he had been arrested, what went through your head?" asked CBS13 reporter Ashley Sharp.
"Just, oh my god because I didn't know. It was shock about what was going on, but yet, not surprised that he is involved," said Delaney.
Delaney said she lived with Cain for a time as a young child. Both she and Cain were living with her grandparents, Cain's mother and father.
For the first time since, Delaney publicly alleges Cain sexually abused her for years while she was under the age of 10.
It was never reported to the police. Delaney said as a teenager she tried to tell her mother of Cain's abuse but her mother did not believe her. She never had a chance to pursue charges against Cain before the statute of limitations expired.
Now, she shares her story hoping it helps investigators.
"This is my way for getting justice for everybody," said Delaney. "For me to think about what this poor little boy went through and on top of it Shawn lived his life treated the way he was? It makes me so angry and hate this man so much more than I did before for causing hell on so many people."
For the Stoner family now also getting closer to answers, closure might be possible.
"Depending on how this develops, they may actually find different a type of closure, a more complete closure, and get some answers about what happened," Dr. Ho said.
The DA's office did not go into much detail about how they were able to link Cain's DNA to the homicide. They say the information is limited at this time as they don't want to jeopardize the case.
The Martinez Police Department also says they are also in contact with Abrams' office about the killing of a 9-year-old boy that happened a month before Stoner went missing to see whether the suspect could be connected to that crime as well.
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