http://sundaygazettemail.com/News/200802230571?page=2&build=cacheA year and a half after vanishing, mystery -- and sorrow -- only deeper
February 24, 2008
Donna Harper remembers being in the emergency room when Melanie Metheny gave birth to her son Nathan.
Metheny has been missing since July 19, 2006. The 21-year-old Belle woman's van was found four days later on Charleston's West Side, but no trace of her was ever discovered.
Harper, the grandmother to two of Metheny's three children, remembers that when Nathan was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and the doctor had to cut the cord, sending blood everywhere.
Family and police say Melanie Metheny was an attentive mother to Hannah and Nathan, and her first child, Ryan. Metheny has been missing since July 2006...
The look on Melanie's blood-spotted face, a look of fear and pain, is something Harper has thought about often since the disappearance.
"You don't know what happened," said Harper. "It hurts. You lay in bed at night and you don't know if she was tortured, if it came swiftly."
You don't even know for sure that Metheny died, Harper said.
Metheny is now on the missing-persons Web site for the FOX television show "America's Most Wanted." Her case may also be presented on the show, said Kanawha sheriff's Detective R.A. Lane.
The day Metheny disappeared, she dropped off her three young children - Ryan, now 6; Nathan, 4; and Hannah, 3 - at a day-care center in Belle about 8 a.m., Lane said.
Roughly an hour later, someone - Lane said he is not sure if it was Metheny - made a call from her cell phone to the auto-repair shop Wreck-A-Mended Paint & Body to talk about repairs for her minivan.
Then about 9:30 a.m., a second call was made from Metheny's phone, this one to her voice mailbox.
At 6 p.m. an employee from the day-care center called Harper to tell her Metheny hadn't picked up her children. Harper picked up the kids, two of whom she has had custody of ever since.
Metheny's son Ryan is with his paternal grandparents, Harper said.
Metheny had been broken up from Harper's son Matthew for several months before she disappeared and had a new boyfriend, Jared Davis. Still, Harper said, she and Metheny remained close.
"Her and my son had two babies, and she lived here up until Matt broke up," Harper said. "And after that, she would still stop by; we would get the kids every other weekend."
Two days after Metheny disappeared, tipsters prompted rescue crews and K-9 units to search near Spring Fork Drive in the Witcher Creek area, but found nothing, Lane said.
Two days after that, police found Metheny's missing gold and tan minivan on the West Side. Neighbors said the minivan had been parked there since at least 2 p.m. July 19. That's when a woman first noticed it taking one of her usual parking spaces in front of her house, Lane said.
A 'crisis point'?
Police have followed many leads that went nowhere, Lane said. They are now going back and interviewing everyone again, essentially restarting the investigation, he said.
One thing police would like to learn more about is a mysterious red sport-utility vehicle. Police said that on the afternoon of Metheny's disappearance a witness on the West Side saw a woman inside the SUV struggling to free herself and yelling, "What about my babies?"
Police described the witness only as someone close to Metheny. Lane said police haven't been able to find the SUV.
Donna Harper has custody of Melanie Metheny's two youngest children, Hannah and Nathan. "You donā't know what happened,"¯ she said. "It hurts." ..
"Somebody knows something about Melanie and they are keeping a tight lid on it right now," he said. "And we need closure. We need this thing to be solved. If anyone knows anything about her or her disappearance and they want to remain anonymous, they will remain anonymous."
Friends and family of Metheny's have set up a Web site, www.findmelanie.com
, which offers a $5,000 reward for information that solves the mystery. The Web site also gives a detailed timeline of the days before the disappearance.
About 12 hours before Metheny disappeared, the Web site claims, she came to a "crisis point."
Lane said he had no information about Metheny suffering through a "crisis point," though he said he has heard rumors about Metheny owing drug dealers $300. While Metheny did use drugs in social settings, he said, he doesn't believe she owed anyone a large sum of money.
"That's asinine," he said. "She was saving to rent a house and get out of the apartment she lived in. She had money; it wasn't a huge amount, but if she needed to, she could use it if she was in that much trouble."'We need to find out'
Both Harper and Lane say Metheny was a devoted mom.
"Her family members and her friends have said that you always really saw her with her kids except when she went to school," Lane said. "She would take them to their grandparents' houses and let them see them. ... She was a young woman that had three kids and wanted to make something out of her life and for her kids, to give her kids something she might never have had."
Metheny was taking classes to prepare herself for college-entrance exams. She wanted to be a nurse, Harper said.
"With her being gone this long, reality sets in and it makes you think that something worse has happened to her," Lane said. "Then again, you have hope that she is still alive out there. I mean, I've got hope."
Harper's mother died in November. Nathan and Hannah both noticed how sad their grandmother was.
"Little Nathan, he saw that I was upset and said, 'Well, Mamaw, I already lost my mommy.' It's pitiful. It's like a double hurt for me," Harper said. "Wherever the truth lies, we need to find out what happened to her. This needs to come out. These children need to know."