A former Las Vegas justice of the peace who resigned following a state ethics investigation committed suicide earlier this month, reports say.
Melanie Andress Tobiasson, who became a justice of the peace pro tem in 1999 and was appointed to the Las Vegas Justice Court bench in 2009, died around 2:30 p.m. on January January 20, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. A Clark County coroner later determined that she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 55.
Andress Tobiasson, who was born and raised in Las Vegas and graduated from law school at Pepperdine University, had faced several personal and professional struggles in recent years. Not only had she just officially divorced her husband a few weeks ago, but she had resigned her position on the bench in 2021 after she became the subject of a state ethics investigation.
According to a complaint filed in August 2020 by a prosecuting officer of the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, Andress Tobiasson had overstepped her professional bounds by attempting to conduct her own criminal investigations and failing to recuse herself in cases in which she likely had a conflict of interest.
In 2015, Andress Tobiasson began to suspect that the clothing store where her 16-year-old daughter worked, Top Knotch, was really a front for a grooming and sex trafficking ring. Andress Tobiasson was particularly suspicious that Shane Valentine, affiliated with Top Knotch, was a "pimp" who was trying to lure her daughter into prostitution, and she asked vice investigators at Las Vegas Metro PD to look into him.
Andress Tobiasson also suspected that Valentine, a felon who was still in contact with her daughter in early 2016, was involved in a double homicide and began "personally" investigating him. However, when Valentine appeared in Andress Tobiasson's courtroom for an unrelated hearing in June 2016, she did not identify a possible conflict of interest or recuse herself from the case.
Several weeks later, she threatened Valentine through his lawyer that if he ever contacted her daughter again, she would "take care of it herself," the complaint stated. The complaint also alleged that she once stated publicly that she had gone "to Shane Valentine’s house and kicked in the door."
She also did not disclose a possible conflict of interest when a police officer requested that she sign a warrant for a raid on Top Knotch after a deadly shooting occurred in the store's parking lot in September of that year.
The commission additionally claimed that Andress Tobiasson had inappropriate communications with Anthony Danna, whom the complaint described as "a known and documented organized crime figure," and that she had engaged in unprofessional conduct in her language, treatment of court clerks, and attire outside of work. Andress Tobiasson claimed that she had been unduly "terrorized" by the commission for several years and filed a complaint against it shortly before she resigned from the bench in April 2021.
"I have been vilified, lied about and accused of wrongdoing, when in fact what I did was appropriate and should be applauded," she said at the time. "I’m resigning because they have terrorized and lied about me for three years."
"The bottom line is I didn’t resign because I did anything wrong," she added. "I resigned because I’ve been accused of doing things that are completely appropriate. I called the police and reported a crime, and they didn’t do anything. I’ve never interfered in the investigation."
Valentine was never charged in connection to the double murder. Neither Andress Tobiasson's ex-husband nor her father commented on her passing.
"She could be a wonderful person," said defense attorney Tom Pitaro. "She was happy, intelligent. She empathized with people.
"She cared about people," he added. "She liked people, and if what is said is true, it’s a tragedy."
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