Melanie Melanson…Gone But Never Forgotten
By Stephanie Burke
Growing up in Woburn it is impossible not to know about this case. On October 28, 1989, Melanie Melanson, a 14 yr old girl, vanished and the case is still unsolved some 23 years later. Everyone in this area knows the name. We have all heard the story. Whenever her name is brought up parents hug their kids a little tighter. Melanie, just like any other teenager, attended a party with friends and that was the last anyone has seen of her. No clues, no witnesses, just a cold trail full of pain for the family that won’t give up.
Melanie had been living with her grandmother and told her that she was spending the night at a friend’s house; leaving out information about the party in the woods she was invited to. When the next morning arrived and Melanie didn’t return home this 23 year old mystery began.
As you can imagine, Melanie’s family was in a panic when she did not return. They immediately started calling everyone they could think of and tracked down the attendees of this “party” the night before. Each one confirmed the fact that when they left Melanie was there. So, what happened to Melanie? Who was the last one with her? It came down to two boys Eugene Bertini and Jimmy Treska. But it wasn’t that simple. Jimmy said he left Melanie with Eugene and Eugene said he left Melanie walking down the street. Bertini claims that they exited the woods around 2am and he was unable to give Melanie a ride as he had a motorcycle and no helmet for her. He left on his motorcycle heading up Montvale Ave towards Woburn and Melanie walked in the other direction towards the Stoneham end.
In the weeks following, police combed the woods where the party had taken place. Choppers, dogs, and droves of people were determined to find her. Then the mystery started to deepen and rumors began to swirl. The rumors stated a shovel being found in Treska’s car, then suddenly the car is stolen and never seen again. There was even a rumor that Bertini had confessed to Melanie’s murder to his then girlfriend. It doesn’t stop there; suddenly a theory evolves that Melanie had run away to Florida. Melanie had run away before so perhaps she had done it again…but why? Why would she suddenly choose to run away at 2am? Why was she supposedly walking towards Stoneham? She was supposed to be staying at her best friend’s house which was in the other direction. Things just weren’t adding up. But amid all this rumor and innuendo nothing was substantiated and still no Melanie….
Over the years her family has never given up hope. They remain diligent in finally bringing her home to rest. Never giving up their search for justice. In November 2011 Private Investigator Michael Garrigan, who has worked on the case since the beginning, announced that he had some leads in the case. This caused him to go back to the woods where Melanie was last seen. Along with him, he brought special cadaver dogs from the Connecticut Search and Rescue. This search concluded some positive results. Also in 2011 one of the boys that was last seen with Melanie all those years ago, Eugene Bertini, was arrested. His arrest was not related to Melanie’s case. He was arrested for taking part in a violent robbery in Wakefield, MA. Bertini is still awaiting trial on those charges. Melanie’s family is hoping this will give prosecutors leverage to get information on what happened that faithful night in 1989.
No matter the outcome with Bertini the family and Private Investigator Michael Garrigan remain ever vigilant in the search. Working off what they learned from their search with Connecticut Search and Rescue; Garrigan will return to the site along with The Body Farm. The Body Farm was created by forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass. It is a research facility in Tennessee that uses technology to better understand how bodies interact with the environment. It is the hope that they will finally find Melanie’s remains and bring her home for a proper burial. To help raise money for the Forensic investigation the family is hosting a fundraiser on May 20, 2012 at Crestview Plaza located in Woburn, MA. More information can be found by clicking this link Melanie Melanson Fundraiser.
The years have passed and Melanie still needs justice. After the passing of her mother, father and beloved grandmother; her aunts have lead the charge to bring justice. Her entire family is devoted to ensuring this case will live on until there is closure and Melanie is laid to rest. This case has touched generations and spanned time. Melanie’s family will not allow what happened to her to be forgotten. She will not just be another unsolved case. They will keep fighting until they get answers. I think this quote from a poem on the Facebook page Melanie’s family created two years ago says it all:
“We will continue searching,
praying for answers from above
to find your remains, and give you a proper burial with love.
Not until we find you can we slow the tears,
Dear Lord, and those who know, please help us,
it’s been 21 years.”