Charges: North St. Paul man charged after woman found dead in burning apartment

An apartment building in North St. Paul where a woman was found dead after a fire. (FOX 9)

A man has been charged with murder after his girlfriend was found dead inside an apartment as crews responded to a fire last week in North St. Paul.

Forty-one-year-old Melvin Bilbro Jr. is charged with murder in the second degree for the killing last Thursday, August 25 at an apartment building at the corner of South Avenue East and 5th Street North.

Police responded around 6:30 p.m. for the report of a fire inside a third-floor unit. At the scene, police saw smoke coming from Apartment 8 and heard someone yelling for help. But, due to the fire and smoke, officers were unable to go inside. When firefighters knocked down the flames, they found the body of a 43-year-old woman. Due to her burns, they were unable to tell if she had any injuries beyond the fire. An autopsy, however, later showed she had suffered multiple stab wounds, officials said.

According to the charges, witnesses told police that the woman had been seeing a man, who the landlord later identified as Bilbro, who lived in Apartment 11.

Authorities interviewed Bilbro who initially claimed he wasn't involved with the victim, but later admitted to being in a sexual relationship with her. Police said Bilbro also claimed he hadn't been in her apartment in several days but then admitted to seeing the victim on the morning of August 25. However, police say witnesses told them they saw Bilbro leaving the apartment shortly before police arrived. 

Inside Bilbro's apartment, police say they found blood on shoes, a phone, a pair of sweatpants, a neon work vest, and a piece of paper in his garbage. They also found blood on the bathroom sink and the tub. Inside the bathroom, they also found a dog that police say was later identified as belonging to the victim. It smelled of smoke and was covered in soot, officers say.

In the victim's apartment, officers found a pair of bloody scissors and a folding knife with blood on it.

Police also learned that Bilbro had a criminal record including a conviction for attempted murder. According to court papers, Bilbro pleaded guilty in 2008 to stabbing his then-girlfriend in the head, leaving her blind in one eye.

Bilbro was on supervised release with the Department of Corrections, which was set to expire on August 30, according to DOC data. He is currently in custody at the Ramsey County Jail awaiting a preliminary hearing.