It was October 27, 1989, and 14-year-old Melanie Jo Melanson had many reasons to be excited. According to The Charley Project, her birthday was in just 5 days, and the teenager was about to have her braces removed. It was also Friday and Melanie planned to start her weekend early. She and her best friend, Carmen Gonzalez left Woburn High School eager to attend a party later that night.
According to Melanie's loved ones, she lived with her grandmother and her aunt Mary Ann in Woburn, Massachusetts. Since she knew her grandmother wouldn’t approve of a late-night party fuelled with drugs and underage drinking, Melanie told her she was spending the night at her friend Laura’s house next door.
Tragically, a simple night of fun and teenage rebellion resulted in a 32-year nightmare that continues to this day; Melanie never came home.
Her grandmother became frantic when she dropped by next door and learned Melanie’s story had only been a cover. She called all of Melanie’s friends but no one claimed to have seen or heard from her. It was at that point she called the police and reported her granddaughter missing.
The party took place in the woods behind an industrial park near Henshaw and Washington St. one mile from Melanie’s home. The area is surrounded by cemeteries, fields and lakes and was known as a teenage hangout.
According to news reports, Melanie was last seen with Eugene (Gene) Bertini and his best friend, James (Jimmy) Treska at the opening of the trail at 2 am. Jimmy claimed he offered Melanie a ride home but she declined in an effort to spend more time with her crush, Gene. Meanwhile, Gene told authorities he couldn’t give the teen a ride because he drove a motorcycle and only had one helmet. He claimed he rode off and saw Melanie walking in the opposite direction.
Roughly a dozen teenagers attended the party and for years, many refused to cooperate with the police. The case quickly went cold, offering no closure for Melanie’s loved ones.
In August 1992, a mysterious caller submitted a tip suggesting authorities search nearby Walker Pond claiming they would find a submerged car containing Melanie’s remains. According to authorities, divers conducted two searches but found nothing.
In 2009, a tip directed authorities towards Middlesex Fells Reservoir 3 miles away. The caller identified themselves as a “former friend” of Gene and Jimmy. Three years later, authorities searched a 2,500-acre wooded area behind a now-closed Kraft Food Plant near the site of the party. Unfortunately, both searches proved to be fruitless.
In 2015, authorities claimed they searched a home after cadaver dogs led them to the backyard; some sources believe the home once belonged to Jimmy’s father, a retired Woburn police officer. Once again, no evidence was recovered.
“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.” — Woburn District Attorney Gerry Leone, 2009
More than three decades later, the search continues for Melanie Jo Melanson, whose loved ones describe as having a “heart of gold.” Her parents and grandmother have since passed but Melanie’s remaining loved ones continue the fight for justice. Although they believe she is likely deceased, they will never stop looking until they find Melanie and bring her home.
At the time of her disappearance, Melanie was 5'3" and weighed 105 lbs. She has blue eyes, brown hair and dimples. If alive, she would be 47. If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Melanie Jo Melanson, contact the Woburn Police Department at 781–933–1212.
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