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Murder charges filed against Palm Springs man in DUI hit-and-run death

INDIO, Calif. - A murder charge was filed today against a Palm Springs man suspected of fatally striking a 70-year-old bicyclist while driving under the influence in Cathedral City.

Brandon Royce Melton, 27, is also charged with DUI gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run resulting in death or injury. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the three felony charges this afternoon at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Melton was arrested around 9:10 p.m. Saturday, about an hour and 15 minutes after allegedly fleeing the scene of the crash in the 67300 block of East Palm Canyon Drive.

The victim, Edward James Shaieb of Cathedral City, died at the scene. He wasn't wearing a helmet, according to the Riverside County Coroner's Office.

A witness reported that the suspect's vehicle, a green Jeep, was driven into Palm Springs, Cathedral City police Capt. Chuck Robinson said.

"Several minutes later, Palm Springs Police Department called us and said the hit-and-run driver was on their 911 system, reporting that he had been involved in the collision," Robinson said.

Cathedral City police went to the 3700 block of East Camino Simeon in Palm Springs and arrested Melton. Because he has a previous DUI conviction, the investigation was "handled as a vehicular homicide rather than a vehicular manslaughter," Robinson said.

Under California's so-called Watson murder rule, named after a precedent-setting 1981 state Supreme Court case, a person driving under the influence in a fatal crash can be charged with second-degree murder, including instances when the defendant has a previous DUI conviction.

Melton pleaded guilty in December 2007 to a misdemeanor DUI charge -- which included an enhancement of having a .15 blood alcohol level -- and was sentenced to three years' probation, according to court records.

Melton is being held at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning in lieu of $1 million bail.

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