Rose Petal First Trial John Mello
Crime & Courts

Rose Petal Saga: Victim’s Boyfriend Acquitted On Custodial Interference Charge

The first ‘Rose Petal Murder’ trial is in the books …

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The first criminal trial related to the Rose Petal Murder saga – which gripped the South Carolina Upstate and launched our FITSFiles podcast last year – was held in Greenville, South Carolina this week.

It wasn’t a murder trial, though …

The trial in question related to allegations of custodial interference against 63-year-old self-styled music producer John Mello – whose purported proximity to the murderer of his former girlfriend has spawned all manner of conspiracy theories about this case.

The outcome? A directed verdict … against the state.

To recap: Mello’s girlfriend – 41-year-old vet tech Christina Parcell – was found savagely slain on the morning of October 13, 2021 in a suburban neighborhood in Greer, S.C. As we have previously reported, details of this crime scene were “disturbingly ritualistic.” For starters, the killer allegedly sprinkled rose petals around Parcell’s body after dragging (and posing) her in the front living room of a 2,100-square foot home owned by her sister, Tina Parcell.

“Rose petals were sprinkled around her body,” a source familiar with the killing told this news outlet. “She was dragged – there were drag marks. The scene was staged.”

Other sources cited the presence of multiple “deadheaded roses” around Parcell’s lifeless body.

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Parcell – who had sustained more than thirty stab wounds to the head and neck area – was discovered shortly after 11:00 a.m. EST on the morning of the murder by her fiancee, Bradly Post, who has since been arrested (but not for killing Parcell). Instead, Post is currently facing five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in the first degree, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor in the third degree, one count of third degree criminal sexual content with a minor and one count of buggery (you can read more about that last charge here).

Post and the estate of the late Christina Parcell are also the focus of multiple civil suits related to their alleged production of pornographic material involving minor children.

That’s right … the victim of this attack was accused of creating child pornography, including images which featured her own daughter.

So … who killed Parcell? In November 2021, prosecutors in the office of S.C. thirteenth circuit solicitor Walt Wilkins charged a 31-year-old concert pianist named Zach Hughes with this graphic crime.

The arrest of Hughes for Parcell’s murder shocked the Upstate seeing as he had no known connection with the victim. A California native and graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, Hughes is a classically trained concert pianist who studied and performed piano sonatas and concertos written by famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Our research director Jenn Wood published this expansive piece on his background back in late March – and Hughes was the focus of an episode of FITSFiles.

(Click to View)

(FITSTube)

Mello and Hughes were “very close friends,” according to prosecutors, routinely using the encrypted smartphone application WhatsApp to communicate with each other. In fact, Mello and Hughes are said to have exchanged at least 1,769 encrypted WhatsApp messages – many of which have been unlocked by investigators.

Subsequently, prosecutors have hinted Mello and Hughes enjoyed an “intense emotional connection.”

In one conversation via WhatsApp on April 17, 2021, Mello indicated he had obtained Christina’s private number and instructed Hughes to use it to “harass the shit out of her.”

Authorities also uncovered numerous conversations between Mello and Zachary Hughes via WhatsApp between October 8 and October 13, 2021 – the day of Christina Parcell’s murder. On October 13, for example, there is a conversation in which Mello asked Hughes “how did the music research go?”

“Good,” Hughes responded. “I’ll tell you over the phone.”

Mello, who was out of the country when Parcell’s murder took place, was involved in a bitter, ongoing custody battle with Parcell at the time of her death. It was this dispute which led to the custodial interference charge against Mello after he fled to Italy with the girl in the fall of 2020.

This custodial charge was dismissed by S.C. circuit court judge Perry Gravely, however, who determined Christina Parcell was not a “legal custodian” of her daughter at the time Mello fled to Italy.

(Click to View)

(Jenn Wood/ FITSNews)

”We felt the statute covered the mother of a child who had rights to the child, however the judge ruled differently and granted a directed verdict,” solicitor Wilkins told this media outlet.

Mello was not immediately available for comment, but a message from an anonymous email account believed to be affiliated with him was positively loquacious in the aftermath of the verdict.

“If you are fair and honest you will report what the corrupt thirteenth circuit solicitor has done,” the anonymous account noted. “The time lost and pain and suffering inflicted on an innocent man and his daughter.  This child, who is the most tragic victim in the entire sordid mess in Greenville.  Subpoenaed as a witness for the prosecution.  An 11-year-old girl, already a victim in so many other ways. Victimized AGAIN by the very system entrusted to protect her.”

The email insisted Wilkins “should be arrested for child abuse because of this.”

“Let us not forget to mention the taxpayer monies squandered on this feckless endeavor,” it added. “The solicitor doesn’t care; it’s not his money after all.  But he got his rocks off abusing the child, didn’t he?”

Mello’s legal troubles are far from over, however. Last September, he was charged with first degree harassment and conspiracy after allegedly coordinating the dissemination of nude images of Parcell to a co-conspirator. This harassment was allegedly tied to the ongoing and highly volatile custody battle between the two over their young daughter.

Who was Mello’s alleged co-conspirator? Zach Hughes …

Hughes also charged with first degree harassment and conspiracy in September for allegedly disseminating the pictures provided by Mello to an undisclosed group of recipients.

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According to prosecutors — as well as court records — Parcell had been the target of a long-term campaign of stalking and harassment carried out by Mello.

At the time, sources familiar with the situation told FITSNews prosecutors had obtained proof that Mello “sent Zach Hughes naked pictures of (Christina) and that Zach mailed them to a bunch of people.”

 Mello “sent nude pics of Christina” which were subsequently “mailed to various locations around the Greenville area in an effort to purportedly harass Christina.”

If true, these allegations would more closely connect Mello and Hughes.

Jury selection for the custodial interference charge began on Monday, April 15, 2024, with FITSNews playing a prominent role in those proceedings. According to one insider, each prospective juror was asked if they had listened to episodes of FITSFiles related to the Rose Petal murder case. Those who responded affirmatively were promptly dismissed.

Mello has consistently maintained his innocence of all the charges against him in communications with this media outlet. He has further agreed to provide this news outlet with an exclusive interview at the conclusion of this trial.

As of this writing, prosecutors have not said when they intend to try the conspiracy and harassment charges against Mello and Hughes. As for Hughes’ murder trial, it is likely to be held in Greenville County in the late summer or early fall of this year.

For more on the Rose Petal Murder, be sure to check out the first six episodes of our crime and corruption podcast FITSFiles (AppleSpotifyGoogle) as well as our new landing page.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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