The Shingle Springs man accused of trying to kill his girlfriend with an ax and slaying his 2-year-old son with a screwdriver was formally charged Tuesday in El Dorado Superior Court.
Charles A. Bailey, 50, fixed a blank gaze on Judge Jerald M. Lasarow as the judge read charges of murder, attempted murder and domestic violence.
Seated in the gallery, the grandmother of the slain toddler and mother of the surviving 34-year-old woman glared at Bailey, who did not enter a plea.
"I want to see him in chains, that's why I'm here," Elinor Melson said moments before the arraignment began. "I want him to spend 50 years in prison fearing for his life every day, the way my baby girl did."
Never miss a local story.
Bailey faces a possible death-sentence trial with enhanced charges for kidnapping his son, causing great harm to his girlfriend and using deadly weapons.
El Dorado County sheriff's officials say Bailey launched his attack on Merrily Melson, 34, before 7 a.m. Saturday. Melson fled from Bailey with severe ax wounds to her head and upper body and called authorities from a neighbor's house.
Deputies arrived to find the couple's 2-year-old son, Andrew, gone. The trailer that the family lived in was empty and the ax was discarded nearby, said Sgt. Jim Byers, El Dorado County sheriff's spokesman.
The suspect is believed to have killed his son within 30 minutes of leaving the home, Byers said.
Bailey is suspected of leaving the body in a wooded area in the small town of Martell, two miles north of Jackson, Byers said.
Authorities tracked Bailey another 45 miles south to a gas station in Tuolumne County, where he was arrested after a struggle.
Byers said Bailey is being held in isolation in El Dorado County jail.
Both Byers and Melson's mother credit Merrily Melson with reporting Bailey's escape moments after the ax attack and setting off the manhunt.
"She was terrified," Melson said. "There aren't three people on earth who could have gotten away from him. Every woman on the planet should be proud of her."
Melson said her daughter is an artist who measured the value of each day by how many friends she made. "She's the light of my life," Melson said.
Merrily Melson was a "24/7" mother to her son, a "delightful, cutie, cutie, cutie," the grandmother said.
"She devoted her life to him," Melson said.
Melson said Merrily met Bailey at Endwave, the Diamond Springs telecommunications firm where Merrily used to work, soldering transistors.
Nothing that she knew, Elinor Melson said, foreshadowed the alleged rampage. She can only imagine bizarre scenarios to explain it, she said.
"I'm voting for brain-eating bacteria or Alzheimer's or a brain tumor," she said. "The notion that you could wake up and become an ax murderer is too frightening to contemplate."
Byers said El Dorado County sheriff's deputies had no record of contact with Bailey before Saturday. El Dorado County prosecutor Vern Pierson, however, notes in the complaint against Bailey that attorneys "intend to produce evidence of a prior act(s) of domestic violence."
A preliminary hearing was set Tuesday for April 28.
Meanwhile, Merrily Melson is with her father and stepmother, healing with the support of generations of family and dozens of friends.
"She's putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward," Elinor Melson said. "Shock is like nature's bandage."