Reginald Melvin, far right, was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison for killing his 1-month-old son Sylus in August 2021. Zoom screenshot

A mother whose 1-month-old died in 2021 says the state’s child protective system failed to help when she raised concerns about the baby’s father.

On Wednesday, Reginald Melvin, 30, was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for the death of his son, Sylus. Melvin’s attorney clarified Wednesday that his client entered an Alford plea last week to the charge of domestic violence manslaughter, meaning Melvin doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to find him guilty.

Reginald Melvin Courtesy Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office

Superior Justice Bruce Mallonee sentenced Melvin to 25 years in prison, five more suspended, and six years of probation.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said the sentence was fair, taking into account Sylus’ many injuries, his age and the fact that his death was a result of domestic violence.

Sylus’ mother, Desiree Newbert, spoke at length Wednesday about the impact Sylus’ loss has had on her and her 5-year-old daughter. Newbert had to explain to her daughter that sometimes, awful things happen to innocent people. They regularly visit Sylus’ grave to leave flowers.

At one point, she directly addressed Melvin, who was sitting at a table in front of Mallonee in his orange jail uniform, crying with his head in his hands.


“I can see you sitting there,” she said, appearing via Zoom. “You should be ashamed, and disgusted, and I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life.”

But before the sentencing, Newbert had written several pages of remarks regarding the shortfalls of Maine’s system for preventing children from being abused, neglected and killed – a system she and Melvin were involved with for years, and a system that recognized Melvin was a threat to his children, but failed to address that threat.

Newbert said Wednesday that she ultimately decided to focus her statement on Melvin, saying he’s ultimately to blame for their child’s death.

Sylus was one of more than two dozen children whose deaths were flagged in 2021 by the Office of Child and Family Services. Of those cases, Melvin was one of four parents who faced criminal charges and whose OCFS files state lawmakers subpoenaed last year as lawmakers sought explanations for these deaths. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is still considering whether lawmakers should have access to the records after objections from DHHS, which oversees OCFS.

Newbert said she often felt like she didn’t have options to address her unhealthy relationship with Melvin even though it seemed like DHHS was constantly referring her places; she said Wednesday it often seemed like these referrals weren’t designed to help her as a parent, but to cause her failure. She said there’s a disconnect in which reports DHHS chooses to investigate and what they ignore.

“This is a serious thing,” said Newbert. “It’s not just my kids, it’s other kids.”



Newbert and Melvin were first investigated by DHHS in June 2018, according to a memo the department released Wednesday afternoon. Newbert had just delivered their daughter, Sylus’ older sister. The department had received reports regarding the couple’s ability to care for their daughter, including concerns about Melvin’s “explosive anger,” according to a memo.

There were caseworker visits and counseling referrals, Newbert said. By late June, Newbert had obtained a protection from abuse order against Melvin.

Newbert’s daughter had to live with her grandfather until September. She was able to live alone with her daughter in October when a judge agreed to dismiss DHHS’ case against her. When she regained full custody of their daughter in October 2018, DHHS told Newbert “she needed to ensure that unsafe individuals were not in her home,” according to an agency memo released Wednesday.

But it was hard to keep Melvin away. He violated her protection orders, was arrested and incarcerated. But that didn’t stop him; when he was released, he went back to Newbert. He sent her texts. One time, he broke in while she was away.

Newbert said she called the local police for help, but they said there wasn’t anything they could do. She said she was afraid that trying to fight him would only draw unhelpful attention from DHHS and she might lose her daughter again.


So she let him back in. And it felt like things were getting better – he had a personality that was all across the board, she said, but she knew he had several mental health disorders and a traumatic brain injury from a car crash in 2015. He could be verbally abusive, but it wasn’t a red flag to her. She said he didn’t hit her until they had Sylus.

When neighbors told DHHS they saw Melvin around Newbert’s home, DHHS started to investigate. According to the memo, the department referred her to an “Alternative Response Program” in October 2019, “to work with providers on safe visitation between the child and Mr. Melvin.”

The program wasn’t helpful, Newbert said. They told Newbert her best option was to move far away, she said, but she had limited access to transportation and didn’t want to leave her family, who all lived in the area. They helped her set up a plan for re-introducing Melvin into her and her daughter’s life. Newbert said she followed the plan, but it didn’t make much of a difference. Sometimes she wishes she had been able to move.

DHHS learned Newbert was pregnant in March. They opened a new investigation in July, after receiving another report about Newbert’s subutex prescription, according to the memo.

A DHHS caseworker only paid the home one visit after Sylus was born on Aug. 10, according to the memo – and Newbert said she and Sylus hadn’t even gotten home from the hospital by the time the caseworker was gone.

Newbert’s mother, Gail, asked the caseworker if she could return for more visits, Newbert said. Her mother was concerned about Melvin.


The memo doesn’t mention Gail Newbert’s request, or other requests that Desiree Newbert mentioned making for a DHHS visit a week before Sylus’ death.

The memo stated that a home nurse, who Newbert got through a referral from the hospital, visited at last three times, on Aug. 11, Aug. 13 and Aug. 23, and found “no concerns.”

But Newbert said the nurse tried reporting concerns about Melvin to DHHS, too, and had even helped mediate a dispute with Melvin during one visit.

After Sylus died, Newbert said, caseworkers started visiting – this time, for her daughter, who Newbert said was placed in foster care for 15 months after her brother’s death. She was allowed to move back in with Newbert on Nov. 26, 2022, Newbert said. She regained full custody again in April.

Newbert said she made poor decisions about keeping Melvin around, but losing temporary custody of her daughter felt extreme.

“This whole time, my little girl was stuck in the foster care system, alone and it broke my heart,” Newbert said. “She was so frustrated, and scared, and mad. It wasn’t anything I had done.”

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