It’s a fall night in Massachusetts, and 14-year-old Melanie Melanson sneaks out to attend a party in the woods. But as the night passes, the revelers begin to peter out. And by the time that dawn arrives, Melanie has disappeared. Almost 30 years later, it’s a mystery that still haunts this New England community.
Melanie was born on November 1, 1984, in Woburn, a small city located some nine miles outside Boston, MA. Sadly, things weren’t easy for the young girl growing up. Apparently, her parents both had problems with substance abuse, and arguments often blighted their family life.
In fact, things got so bad that Melanie had already attempted to abscond from home. However, despite her family’s difficulties, the young girl did have some affection in her life. Luckily, her aunts and cousins provided some stability in her hectic situation. And by October 1989 the 14-year-old was living with her grandmother – although she still spoke to her parents regularly.
At first, October 27 started like any other day. After attending classes at Woburn Memorial High School, Melanie and her friend Carmen Gonzalez walked home. Then Melanie told her grandmother that she would be spending the night next door at the house of another friend. However, that wasn’t the only thing that the teenager had planned.
Unknown to her family, Melanie had gone to join a bunch of schoolmates for drinking in woods at the edge of Woburn. As a freshman days away from her 15th birthday, Melanie was a bit younger than the usual crowd at the party, which was a regular happening in that spot.
Using the sleepover as a cover story, Melanie met up with some friends and headed out into the woods. She found herself the youngest of the dozen people there. And as the night progressed, she became the only girl. Clearly, the attendees, though few in number, were having fun, and the party didn’t wind down until the early hours of October 28.
Slowly, however, a terrible truth began to dawn. At some point over the course of the celebrations, Melanie had disappeared. And even more worryingly, nobody seemed able to say where she had gone. That afternoon, the girl’s family found out that she had been at the party and desperately telephoned the teens who had been there for information.
However, they drew a blank. Eventually, Melanie’s family contacted the police and reported the girl as missing. However, the investigation was initially complicated by Melanie’s past. Given that she had run away from home before, the authorities assumed that the same thing had happened again.
Although initially treated as a runaway, Melanie was the subject of an intensive search. Using helicopters and cadaver dogs, the authorities scoured the area for any sign of the missing girl. However, no trace of her could be found. Meanwhile, the investigation focused in on two boys who had been with her on the night of her disappearance.
According to witnesses, Jimmy Treska and Gene Bertini were the last people to be seen with Melanie that night. Interestingly, the two boys gave different accounts of the girl’s last known movements. While each claimed that the other had stayed with Melanie the longest, one also stated that he had seen her at a trailhead some time in the early hours.
Furthermore, some strange rumors began to emerge about Jimmy and Gene. Allegedly, Jimmy’s vehicle had gone missing around the same time that Melanie had disappeared. Furthermore, some claimed that the boy had been spotted brandishing a dirty shovel. And even though Gene was in a relationship, there were whispers that he and Melanie had been romantically involved.
Despite these rumors, police arrested no one in relation to Melanie’s disappearance. And as the years passed, the case went cold. Finally, in August 1992, there appeared to be a break in the investigation. Apparently, an anonymous caller advised police to search an area near where the party had been held.
However, the search turned up nothing. Once again, investigators found themselves with little to go on. Soon, two decades had gone by and authorities were no closer to finding out the truth. For Melanie’s family, it was a challenging and heartbreaking time. Eventually, they hired a private investigator to help them get to the bottom of the mystery.
For Melanie’s aunt Ruth Townsend, the years of not knowing have only added to the family’s pain. “It’s too many years, too many years,” she told ABC News in 2009. “It’s heartbreaking… to feel that she is out there. We know she is out there… 20 years is just too long – way too long.”
That same year, authorities renewed their efforts to solve Melanie’s disappearance once and for all. To that end, they offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the case’s resolution. And within months, police were back in the woods outside of Woburn, following up on potential leads.
However, authorities were unable to find anything that would give Melanie’s family closure at last. But two years later, a private investigator who has worked unpaid on the case for years made an announcement. Apparently, he had identified some potential new clues and had taken a dog unit out to search a Woburn location.
Once again, however, the leads came to nothing. Then, the following year, an unidentified man telephoned police. According to him, one of the teenagers who had been at the party was spotted at Middlesex Fells Reservation, a local recreation area, later that same night. Could they have been disposing of vital evidence – or even Melanie’s body?
Although investigators appeared to take the tip seriously, a search of the area revealed nothing. Then, in 2015 the investigation was reopened once more. Apparently, a Woburn home had changed owners, which allowed people to search an area that had previously been inaccessible.
But even though radar evidence had suggested that something might have been buried in back of the property, investigators came up empty handed once more. Years later, there is still no sign of Melanie’s body – nor any indicator that she might still be alive. So exactly what happened all those years ago?
According to Gerry Leone, the Woburn district attorney, it’s likely that several people colluded in Melanie’s fate. “We have reason to believe that more than one person over the years has not only concealed Melanie’s body, but may also be involved in further concealing it or even moving it,” he told ABC News in 2009. Sadly, for the missing girl’s family, it’s a nightmare that might never end.