Rovnak Appears on Murder Charge
When Melissa Rovnak made an initial appearance in a Moore County court Tuesday on first-degree murder charges, her son and daughter were there to show their support.
Rovnak is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the 2002 death of her second husband. She was extradited from West Virginia last week.
Scott Rovnak was shot and killed in his Aberdeen home almost 10 years ago. Family members found Rovnak’s body at his home at 2776 Roseland Road. His death was originally reported as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Days later, sheriff’s investigators determined differently.
According to police reports, Scott Rovnak suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head from a firearm of unknown caliber. He had apparently been dead for some time when his family found the body.
Melissa Rovnak and her three children had left the residence on Dec. 26, 2002, and traveled to visit family in West Virginia and then returned three days later.
The case remained unsolved for years, although Sheriff Lane Carter said all along that investigators had a possible killer in mind but were searching for enough evidence to bring a case to court.
Sandhills Crimestoppers offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
In June, detectives from the Moore County Sheriff’s Office and the office of District Attorney Maureen Krueger went to West Virginia to arrest and charge Melissa Rovnak.
She refused to waive extradition and was brought to North Carolina last week after Gov. Bev Purdue signed a governor’s warrant.
In Superior Court just before the noon break on Tuesday, bailiffs brought Rovnak from the county jail to appear before Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb on a charge of felony first degree murder.
Diminutive in size, her long brown hair flowing down past her shoulders, Rovnak replied in a soft voice to Webb’s inquiries when he asked if she understood she had been indicted for first-degree murder and that the maximum punishment is death.
Standing beside her was her interim counsel, Southern Pines attorney Bruce Cunningham. He serves — by appointment from the Office of Indigent Defense Services in Raleigh — as interim capital defender.
As Rovnak answered the judge, her son and daughter, sitting in a row behind where she stood, lifted folded handkerchiefs to wipe tears from their eyes. Josh and Kristin Pruitt are Rovnak’s children from her first marriage.
During the morning break, while waiting for her case to come up, they both stalwartly defended their mother.
“She didn’t kill him,” Kristin Pruitt said, as Josh nodded in agreement. “She is not guilty. I don’t know who shot him, but it wasn’t her.”
Replying to questions from the court, Rovnak said she wanted a court-appointed attorney and told the judge she’d signed an affidavit of indigency.
Webb had her review the document with Cunningham so she could make any needed corrections, and then had her sign it again in open court. Webb found her indigent and entitled to a court-appointed attorney.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I will notify you, Miss Rovnak, that you have the absolute constitutional right to remain silent,” Webb said. “Do you understand that? Do you understand that if you waive that right anything you say can and may be used against you in the prosecution of your case?”
In a clear soft voice she answered yes to each query by the court.
She will return to court Oct. 8.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell@ gmail.com.
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