Credit: Em Espey

This article was updated at 4:25 p.m. to omit the mother’s name. It was updated again at 9:43 a.m. May 24 to clarify that the deceased victim was 16 months old.

A Washington, D.C., resident faces a potential life sentence for allegedly abusing his girlfriend’s 16-month-old son to the point of death in Silver Spring, according to charging documents from the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

On Monday, Montgomery County Police arrested Marlon Adilson Melendez, 28, on charges of child abuse and murder related to Zavier Giron’s March 11 death, police records show.

According to the statement of charges, police and paramedics responded to a third-floor unit of Silver Spring’s Monterrey Apartments at approximately 4 a.m. on March 11 for report of a pediatric emergency. Upon arrival, officers found an unresponsive male child in the apartment. The child, Zavier Giron, was transported to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead an hour later. His date of birth was Oct. 24, 2021, records indicate.

The police investigation revealed that Giron’s mother, 27, lived in the unit with him. Her boyfriend, Melendez—who was not the child’s father—is not included on the apartment’s lease, but police said they found significant evidence to indicate he regularly stayed there with them.

Giron’s mother told police her son had been vomiting continuously throughout the day on March 10, documents state. That night, she said she ended up sleeping with him on the couch because he was restless. Shortly before 4 a.m., she realized his arms were stiff, his eyes were half open and he wasn’t snoring, the records state. She alerted Melendez, who called 911.


A medical examination of the victim’s body identified bruises and scratches on his abdomen, head and arms that Giron’s mother could not explain, according to police. Charging documents say the autopsy revealed “additional injuries consistent with child abuse,” including a broken and severely dislocated right femur, broken ribs, brain bleed and perforated small intestine leaking fluid into the abdomen. The fluid had become infected and directly contributed to the child’s death, according to the medical examiner.

In its final May 19 autopsy report, The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the child’s cause of death to be blunt force injuries and the manner of death to be homicide.

During their investigation, detectives obtained search warrants for Melendez and Giron’s mother’s cell phones. Text records extracted from the mother’s phone show evidence of “both physical and emotional abuse,” charging documents state, including reference to Melendez “whooping the s—” out of her and multiple instances of Melendez calling her son a “cry baby kid.” In a March 9 text argument where Melendez’s girlfriend told him she wanted him to leave her apartment, he responded, “You will die b—-.”


Data extracted from Melendez’s phone reveal he searched the internet for “internal bruising” and other searches related to the medical examiner’s autopsy findings. The cell phone data also shows he deleted his browser search history at 6 a.m. March 11, mere hours after the child died and while police officers were still in the apartment—and then again in the early hours of March 29, before he met with police at the station for an interview.

The investigation uncovered video evidence of a specific incident of abuse committed by Melendez at a nearby restaurant just two days before the child’s death.

Security footage retrieved from Salvadoran eatery Pupuseria Doña Azucena in downtown Silver Spring shows Melendez, his girlfriend and her son dining together around 7 p.m. At one point when Giron’s mother briefly left the table, police say the footage allegedly shows Melendez smearing lemon juice from a wedge onto his index finger and rubbing it in the child’s eye, then squeezing the lemon in the child’s face. The child “was clearly distraught by this,” detectives wrote in charging documents.


When the mother left the table a second time, police allege the footage depicts Melendez grabbing and pulling the child’s hair and using his thumb to “repeatedly scratch and dig into” the child’s temple. The child “appears to cry and be in distress” every time Melendez touched him, according to police records, which add that “the hair-pulling is particularly noteworthy, as [the mother] had noted [the child] was losing hair.”

During a police interview with Giron’s mother on May 19, records indicate she told detectives Melendez would sometimes be alone with her child for brief periods of time in her home. She also said Melendez hated her son’s father and frequently told her how much her son looked like him, charging documents state. According to police, Giron’s mother said she noticed her child had “developed a fear of Hispanic men with beards,” and Melendez had a beard. She denied having anything to do with the abuse, according to police.

In a May 19 interview with police, the mother’s sister said she remembered a time in February when she was holding Giron and Melendez walked in the room. She said Giron suddenly “grabbed onto her tightly and seemed terrified in his presence,” which “struck her as odd, because [he] was an otherwise happy child,” according to charging documents.


Location data from Melendez’s phone showed that he regularly spent the night at his girlfriend’s apartment, despite his claim to police in a March 16 statement that he only stayed overnight on weekends. The data also showed he was present at the apartment for the two days and nights preceding the child’s death, according to police records.

An arrest warrant was issued for Melendez on May 19, and he was arrested by U.S. Marshals Capital Area Regional Task Force in Hyattsville on May 22, according to a press release. He has been charged with first-degree child abuse resulting in the death of a minor and second-degree murder. He also faces a separate charge of second-degree child abuse specifically related to the restaurant incident.

Melendez waived his right to an attorney at his initial court appearance on May 23, according to case records. He is being held without bond and awaits a preliminary hearing in District Court at 9:30 a.m., June 23, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office. He faces a potential life sentence if found guilty of the charges.


According to case records, Melendez previously pleaded guilty to a 2015 misdemeanor charge of simple assault in Washington, D.C. That conviction represents the extent of his criminal record in both Maryland and D.C.