Cold Case: The Murder of Melissa Lee
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
This week's mini-story is a rare, but hopeful, solved cold case. From the state of Washington, the murder of Melissa Lee went unsolved, but not forgotten, for nearly thirty years.
Melissa Lee (15) was reported missing on April 14, 1993 her family home in Bothell, Washington.
The previous night, April 13, 1993, Melissa had been home alone. Her mother, Sharon Lee, told officers that she had spoken with Melissa on the phone at around 9:30 p.m., and Melissa had planned to have a girlfriend come over to spend the night.
However, when Sharon returned home after work, shortly after midnight, she knew something was wrong. The front door was ajar. The living room coffee table was disturbed, an ashtray was upside down on the floor, and a glass of milk had been spilled on the floor (“Snohomish County, WA-Official Website” 2020). Melissa was nowhere to be found.
Faced with an absent daughter, evidence of a struggle, and an open front door, Sharon reported Melissa missing to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.
Melissa's body was discovered just past 3 p.m. on April 14, 1973, in a gulch 100 ft below the Edgewater Creek Bridge in Everett, Washington. Her clothing was found to be disheveled and it appeared that she had been sexually assaulted.
The cause of death was determined the following day by the Snohomish County Chief Medical Examiner to be “attributed to asphyxia due to manual strangulation” and her death was ruled a homicide (Staff 2020). Furthermore, toxicology reports came back negative for alcohol or drugs, but did show positives for ethyl ether, a chemical used commonly as an anesthetic, as well as heptane, a solvent that smells similar to gasoline.
A few months later, Sharon Lee moved almost halfway across the country to Tennessee and began the long and painful process of rebuilding her life. Faced with seeing her daughter's case quickly fade from the media disheartened her and she was fearful for the safety of both her and her two other children. But, a year and a half later, she returned to Washington with posters and fliers in hand, promising a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that would help solve the case.
““I decided for me to get on with my life, I'm going to have to do something about the past,” Sharon said during an interview in 1994. “Somebody out there knows what happened. At least one person, the person who did it, knows.” (Wurzer, Wayne 2020).
Police would interview over a hundred people and chase countless leads, but still came up with little answer. Melissa had been a sweet, happy, and friendly young woman that aspired to be a model and enjoyed working with the elderly. Detective Rinta called her “a good kid who had a few minor problems with police” and though she had some friends who were gang members, Sharon Lee doubted that gang violence had played a factor in Melissa's death (Wurzer, Wayne 2020).
Justice at Last
Years later, many more than both detectives and Sharon Lee would have preferred, justice finally brought the killer to police custody.
On July 28, 2020, detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit were finally able to arrest Melissa's killer.
Alan Edward Dean (62), of Bothell, Washington, was arrested for the first-degree kidnapping and first-degree murder of Melissa Lee. He is being held in the Snohomish County jail with bail set at $2 million. If convicted, Dean will face 20-26 years behind bars.
Dean was taken into custody quietly at 5 p.m., on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 near his home in Bothell, Washington. Dean lived less than four miles from where authorities discovered Melissa's body, strangled and discarded in a ravine, in 1993.
“We never gave up hope that we would find Melissa's killer,” Adam Fortney, Snohomish County Sheriff, said in the release. “The arrest yesterday shows how our detective's determination, combined with new advancements in DNA technology, continues to get us one step closer to justice for victims and their families, even decades later.” (Wolford 2020).
During the investigation, detectives combed through Melissa's belongings. They discovered notes in her address book, as well as a phone number, that referred to someone named “Michael”, who would later be identified as Dean. He admitted that he met Melissa through a night talk line and had used the name “Mike” during the conversations.
Detectives interviewed Dean as a suspect three times in 1993, during which he said that he had dated Melissa twice in March of that same year. At that time, Dean was 35 years old. Only eight years prior, Dean had been involved in the sexual assault of a minor in Arizona. Prior to the killing, Dean was an employee of Boeing in Everett, Washington.
During the investigation, detectives were able to gather DNA from a discarded cigarette butt that the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab was later able to match to DNA from the crime scene. His identity was confirmed through matches analyzed by Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company located in Virginia.
“I'm just happy I got to live long enough to see this happen...I hope he [Dean] rots in hell,” said Sharon Lee in an interview with King 5 News (Staff 2020).
As detectives continue to collect evidence for the case, they are asking anyone with the following information to come forward:
Currently knows Dean, previously knew Dean, or knew of his activities in or around 1993
Recognizes Dean from the photo of him below around the time of the killing in 1993 and/or the more recent photo of him
Dated, communicated with, or has any information regarding Dean around 1993 using a night talk line under the false name of Mike or Michael
Has information regarding Dean having access to Ethyl Ether and Heptane chemicals around the time the crimes were committed.
Anyone with information may contact the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Tip Line at (425) 388-3845.
That's all we have for this week - check back next week for another post! Each week we will cover something new that catches our interest- it may be a cold case, a mysterious phenomena, or something else entirely.
Anastasia & Loren
Wait To Panic podcast
Wait To Panic is a true crime and paranormal podcast where two friends take turns telling stories that just might make your skin crawl. New episodes are released every Sunday at 2 PM.
“Snohomish County, WA - Official Website.” 2020. Snohomishcountywa.Gov. 2020. https://snohomishcountywa.gov/Archive.aspx?ADID=6505.
Staff, KING 5. 2020. “Bothell Man Arrested for 1993 Cold Case Murder.” King5.Com. KING. July 29, 2020. https://www.king5.com/article/news/crime/alan-edward-dean-arrested-1993-murder-melissa-lee/281-5eb28d1d-0eed-4465-b491-5c6ba2a22bbf.
Wolford, Brooke. 2020. “DNA Helps Nab Murder Suspect in 15-Year-Old’s Cold Case Death, Washington Cops Say.” Thenewstribune. Tacoma News Tribune. July 29, 2020. https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/state/article244588107.html.
Wurzer, Wayne. 1994. “Mother Seeks Clues To Girl’s Slaying In ’93 | The Seattle Times.” The Seattle Times Archive. December 08, 1994. https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=19941208&slug=1946151