When the 11-year-old disappearance and suspected murder of an Emory University pre-law student goes to trial this week, the outcome could depend on whether the defense can keep from the jury the chilling details of the defendant’s past.

Colvin C. “Butch” Hinton III goes on trial for the murder of 19-year-old Shannon Melendi, who disappeared after last being seen at a DeKalb County, Ga., softball field where Hinton worked as an umpire. Her body was never found. While Hinton became a suspect near the beginning of the investigation and eventually was imprisoned on an unrelated arson conviction, he was not charged with Melendi’s murder until he left prison in December 2003 and began working as a butcher in a metro Atlanta grocery.

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