On January 18, 2021, we received an email from Melody’s sister, Cherise, telling us she’d been missing for 10 days. The police weren’t doing anything. Please help, she wrote. We contacted her right away.
Melody grew up with many siblings and they were close. Their parents were mostly absent, so they took care of each other. We had to, one of her sisters said, “We were just trying to survive. We all loved Melody.”
Melody wanted to go to college and needed money, so when someone befriended her and told her he knew of a way to make it quickly, she listened. His name was Jesse, and he told her about the paid sex business. Melody told her younger sister, Sasha, what she was doing but made her promise not to tell anyone else. She called Sasha many times a day, but then one day she didn’t.
The last time Melody was seen was 3:30 am on January 8th. She’d been working a particular “strip” in town and Michael, her pimp, told her anxious family that he’d dropped off an energy drink spiked with alcohol to help keep her going for her next client. He said he lost contact with her after that. Her family called the police and began looking everywhere for her.
After contacting Special Operations, Cherise explained that the police seemed to have forgotten about Melody, that they didn’t consider her case to be urgent, and she’d probably return eventually. But Special Operations felt there were too many facts that indicated the possibility of violent crime to stop looking for her, so we doubled down. We immediately offered a $5k reward and enlisted the help of a team of private investigators— and from there, we began gathering evidence and the story of Melody began to unfold.
Apparently, Michael had taken Melody’s car and gone into hiding so we provided enough information to law enforcement to have them issue a warrant for his arrest. We began looking for Melody on social media, reviewed recent ATM activity, surveillance videos, and more. We found her car in a matter of days. The police took it to a storage yard, handed over a duffle bag they found in the trunk to her family, and left the car to be processed as a possible crime scene. But after sitting in the lot for two weeks, we offered to pay for a private crime lab to process the car. Knowing the duffle bag should be processed as evidence, we advised the family on how to preserve it until it was collected by law enforcement.
But still no Melody.
At this point Special Operations had enough evidence about Michael’s whereabouts that he was arrested the next morning. He was found with loaded guns and assault rifles. His bail is set at $1 million.
The story doesn’t have a happy ending. Eventually a hiker found Melody’s remains in a forest preserve 5 hours away. She was a deeply loved girl.