Former director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, accused of sexual assault

Former director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, accused of sexual assault

A former director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir is facing felony charges alleging he groomed and sexually assaulted a one-time choir member.

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged Marco Melendez, 39, with two counts of child enticement and one count of third-degree sexual assault. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but he was not in the Milwaukee jail late Thursday.

A criminal complaint, also filed Tuesday, described the alleged abuse of a former choir member, who told Milwaukee investigators that Melendez tried to ply him with alcohol and fondle him numerous times from 2016 to 2018, the year Melendez left the state.

The victim is now 23 years old, but was a child when his parents put him in the choir in 2013.

He told investigators that Melendez often made inappropriate comments to him about “hooking up with the boys” and asked the victim and other choir members about their sex lives, the court document states.

In October or November 2016, Melendez took the victim to a movie. On their way, Melendez, who was driving, pretended to reach for a drink and instead rested the back of his hand on the victim’s legs, according to the complaint. He did it several times during the trip.

The victim estimated that Melendez picked him up and took him to Melendez’s house about 100 times. On most of those trips, Melendez fondled him during the trip, the complaint says.

From there, Melendez began taking the victim to his home in Washington Heights more often. The visits would also involve the victim being offered alcoholic beverages. Melendez also allegedly touched the victim inappropriately during the meetings, the complaint said.

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In early 2017, Melendez allegedly offered to perform a sexual act on the victim, who was still a minor at the time, and touched her inappropriately, according to the complaint.

Melendez warned the victim not to tell anyone because disclosure would ruin her career, the complaint said.

Melendez left the state in 2018, but returned to Milwaukee in 2019 and held a rally at his new home.

There the victim, who was now an adult, said Melendez served him alcohol and performed a non-consensual act on him. Another former choir member told police he witnessed the incident.

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The police approached the victim in May of this year.

Investigators later recorded a phone call between the victim and Melendez. Melendez said he doesn’t remember anything about the incidents, but said if the victim felt uncomfortable, “of course he apologizes.”

Melendez worked for the Milwaukee Children’s Choir from September 2012 to May 2017. The children’s choir later in the spring merged with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, which issued a statement:

“As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment on the specifics of the matter at this time. However, as part of the merger, we can confirm that no Milwaukee Children’s Choir board or staff members are employed by the Wisconsin Conservatory. The music.”

Melendez was hired in February as music director for the Queen of Apostles parish family in Cincinnati. Its pastor, Fr. Alex McCullough, said in a letter this week to parishioners that Melendez was no longer employed by the parish as of June 25, the day the warrant was filed.

McCullough wrote in the letter that he was not aware of any allegations of criminal activity made against Melendez while he worked at the Cincinnati parish.

Melendez faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.