Dusan Melic

Several competing stories were told about the circumstances under which Dusan Melic, a twenty-year old Croatian-immigrant steelworker, shot and killed Andrew J. Kelly in East Pittsburgh on Sunday evening, October 4, 1903.

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Most likely is that Melic and his companion, Mary Lugan, were walking home from a party when Lugan screamed, though not in fright. Kelly, a former police officer who had been dismissed from the force and was working as a private watchman, responded by running at Melic with his gun drawn. Melic shot Kelly, who died at the scene.

Kelly, a native of Indiana County, was not in uniform and Melic claimed he did not know he was a security officer. He also claimed Kelly shot first.

Melic and Lugan, 18, were dating. Melic boarded in her family’s home.

After the shooting, Melic was apprehended by police. He confessed, claiming he acted in self-defense. In addition to arresting Melic, approximately 50 other “foreigners” living in area boarding houses were arrested as part of an anti-immigrant dragnet.

At trial, Melic’s claim of self-defense was rejected and he was found guilty of first-degree murder on Christmas Day, 1903, the first time a county jury met on that day.

In February 1904, Melic’s brother, Nicholas, committed assault with intent to kill so that he could be arrested in an effort to be executed with his brother.

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Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, February 27, 1904

Melic’s death sentence was commuted to life by the Board of Pardons on December 21, 1904. Police officers supported the commutation, saying the case was appropriately manslaughter. Dusan Melic was pardoned on March 18, 1915, and released from prison.

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Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, December 22, 1904

In a tragic addendum to the case, Mary Lugan died of burns sustained in a household accident on March 27, 1904.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, March 28, 1904

In other versions of the case, Melic is said to have attacked, raped, or threatened to kill Lugan and Kelly is said to have been a uniformed police officer.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

3 thoughts on “Dusan Melic”

  1. Thanks so much for this. Andrew Kelly was my great-great Grandfather, and I’ve been looking for information about his death online for years. I knew that he was shot and killed while on duty, and over the years I learned about the general circumstances surrounding his death, but I never knew the specifics. This information is invaluable to my genealogy research. So, thanks again.

    Like

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