Giovanni’s mother Veronica Melton told Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV that she believes Wendell shot and killed their son because he was gay.
“When my son died, I died. I died that day. My heart was broken,” said Veronica.
Wendell has claimed Giovanni’s death was an accident — that an argument got physical, and that he didn’t mean to pull the trigger. But Veronica says she believes Wendell was unwilling to accept Giovanni’s identity.
“When I was married to him, he would make very disparaging remarks against people that were gay, and to me I know that he was homophobic,” she said.
Veronica told KTNV that Giovanni came out to her two months before he died, and that she thinks he told his father around the same time.
Wendell, who has been on house arrest since last year, faces charges of open murder, felony possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and first-degree felony child abuse. Veronica believes that a hate-crime enhancement should have been added to the list.
Giovanni’s former foster mother, Sonja Jones, told NBC affiliate KSNV at the time of his death that his father had also threatened Giovanni with a gun in a separate incident after catching him with his boyfriend.
"He hated the fact that his son was gay," said Jones. "I'm sure that inside of his mind, he would rather have a dead son than a gay son."
Giovanni, who was a student at Coronado High School in Henderson, Nevada, was remembered fondly by students and friends.
“He always had a smile on his face," one student told the local CBS affiliate in November 2017.
Wendell Melton’s next court appearance is scheduled for February.