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Missing Woman: Rachel Marie Mellon - IL - 01/31/1996

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Case Type: Endangered Missing 

DOB: Oct 13, 1982

Sex: Female

Missing Date: Jan 31, 1996

Race: Asian

Age Now: 25

Height:  5'0" (152 cm)


Weight:  65 lbs (29 kg)

Missing State :  IL

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Hazel

Missing Country: United States

Case Number: NCMC814151 

Circumstances: Rachel's photo is shown age-progressed to 19 years. She disappeared from her residence on January 31, 1996. She was last seen wearing yellow sweatpants, a pink top, red house-slippers and was wrapped in a blue blanket.

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Remembering Rachel

By Christy Gutowski

Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Posted Friday, January 27, 2006

Jeff Skemp pictures his only child, Rachel, as a college graduate starting a family and fulfilling a childhood dream to be a teacher.

Then he is jolted back into a reality in which he harbors no such illusions for Rachel, who's been missing since age 13.

"For a very long time, I have known Rachel is dead," he said, his voice full of emotion. "There's been no sign of her in 10 years. But there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about her."

Rachel Marie Mellon vanished Jan. 31, 1996. The bubbly 13-year-old seventh grader stayed home from school with a sore throat, lounging around her Bolingbrook house in a pink sweatshirt, yellow sweatpants and slippers.

By night, the 5-foot-2, 78-pound girl was gone  never to be seen again.

Although Rachel's body still hasn't been found, police are all but certain she was murdered. They cling to their long-held theory that Rachel's stepfather was involved, but despite numerous interviews; lie detector tests given; saliva and DNA samples taken; phone taps made and the convening of a Will County grand jury, he has not been charged with any crime.

Tuesday will mark the 10-year anniversary of her disappearance. Many friends and family members say it's time they said good-bye to the outgoing, theatrical girl.

They plan to gather Saturday at her father's church in west suburban Maywood for a public memorial. Unless his daughter's remains are discovered, the 47-year-old Forest Park man said this will be the last service for Rachel.

"Her friends and family need to gather together and share a good cry, some happy memories and say goodbye," said Skemp, a taxi cab dispatcher. "I think Rachel wants us to move on and realize she's in a better place."

Unopened presents

Rachel was an honor's student at B.J. Ward Middle School in Bolingbrook.

Her two closest friends, Carrie Johnson and Jenny Sulkson, recall a cheerful friend who spent her spare time dancing, singing, reading, playing video games, practicing guitar, shopping, acting and listening to music.

Today, the friends are 23 years old. Johnson has a 14-month-old daughter, whom she named Isabelle Rachel. Sulkson is engaged to be married while she studies criminal justice and psychology  a career path also envisioned by Rachel.

Sulkson keeps treasured photos, poems and other mementos of her lost friend. Each Oct. 13, Rachel's birthday, Johnson still buys a present for her friend.

"I guess it's just my way of kind of still celebrating her," she said. "I always get a little something and put it in a box and if, one day, she were to come back, I would have that for her."

Sulkson also kept presents for Rachel. She has stopped, though. As does Jeff Skemp, the young women accept that day most likely will never come.

"Obviously, I've had to come to terms with it," Sulkson said. "I know there's no chance, but sometimes, maybe I'll see someone who looks like her, and for a second, I think it might be Rachel."

A bitterly cold day

Rachel lived with her mother, Amy, and a stepfather, Vince Mellon, who helped raise the missing girl since she was 3. The couple have two children, a son and daughter, whom Rachel often babysat.

Vince Mellon, between jobs that fateful day, told police he and Rachel spent the morning playing Nintendo in their home on Derbyshire Court.

Police said the stepfather told them he braved the near 20-below zero temperature about 2:30 p.m. to walk the family dog, a German shepherd named Duke. Rachel was napping, he said. The dog slipped off his leash while chasing another animal, Mellon told police, and he returned home 30 minutes later assuming Duke would find his own way back.

Her family didn't notice that Rachel was missing until that evening. Police found no signs of forced entry to the home. Only a blue blanket and two pillows were missing. Rachel's coat, shoes and her purse weren't taken.

Amy Mellon called Rachel's friends, including Sulkson, whose home Rachel had run away to several months earlier. Unlike that time, Rachel did not return the next morning.

"No one had heard from her," Carrie Johnson recalls. "So, we know something was wrong."

Police monitored her bank account, but not even a penny was touched. A ransom note never came. There's been no phone calls from her.

"The theory that a 13-year-old girl with no resources would be able to up and disappear on her own is pretty far fetched," said Bolingbrook Police Lt. Tom Ross, one of the detectives involved in 1996 case. "Do we believe she is a victim of foul play and probably has died? Yes."

A community reacts

The teen's disappearance sparked a huge community response.

People turned out by the dozens to do shoulder-to-shoulder searches; business owners displayed posters of the smiling, hazel-eyed girl in storefront windows, and volunteers passed out thousands of fliers.

Police and the FBI searched the area using helicopters, dogs, horses, dive teams, all-terrain vehicles, ground canvasses and thermal imaging. They searched a dozen houses, conducted thousands of interviews, polygraph and DNA tests.

Detectives traveled from Washington, D.C. to Montana to Dallas, Texas to chase possible leads. They also worked with Philippine national police, who circulated Rachel's photo to see if she might be in her mother's birthplace.

Rachel was never found. Without a body, police have hit a dead end. They aren't giving up, though, nor is the case file closed.

"This is a case in three-ring binders and boxes that sit on a detective's desk," Lt. Ross said. "The leads slowed down over the years, but this is still an active case with a detective assigned to it."

Vince Mellon, 39, married Rachel's mother, Amy, in 1986. He is the last person known to have seen Rachel.

Amy Mellon, who passed a lie detector test, held a news conference in February 2000 defending her husband and admonishing local police for focusing their investigation on Vince. She contends Rachel was abducted by a stranger.

Her show of support came one month after police obtained a court order to get Vince Mellon's blood, saliva and hair samples. A judge also gave police permission to secretly monitor the family's home phone conversations.

Vince and Amy Mellon appeared before a Will County grand jury, where the stepfather invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. He has never been charged with the girl's disappearance. He and Amy Mellon could not be reached for comment this week.

Vince Mellon's attorney, Gene Ognibene, said he is unaware of any current movement in Rachel's case.

"He's always maintained he had nothing to do with her disappearance," Ognibene said. "He's presumed innocent and has not even been charged."

A dad's undying love

Jeff Skemp, who was living in Texas when Rachel vanished, moved back to the Chicago area 10 months later to be close to the investigation.

"I couldn't handle being that far away," he said. "I felt really helpless and hopeless, like I couldn't do anything, not that there's much you can do."

In 2001, he founded a group in his daughter's honor. Today, it has a couple dozen volunteers and operates the Web site,

Besides keeping Rachel's name out there, another goal is to link police agencies with resources such as canine search teams and volunteers to help with ground searches. The site also publicizes other missing cases.

Anne Bielby, who did not know Rachel but lived nearby, maintains the site and is the behind-the-scenes organizer. Carrie Johnson and Jenny Sulkson contribute their personal memories to the site.

Many others also do their part. Leroy Mardenborough, a Florida man touched when hearing Rachel's story, hosts the site for free. He vows to keep it running until there is resolution. Ann Dralle, a Will County board member, paid for a tree that was planted for Rachel at a local park. Neighbor Leroy Brown helped re-canvas Rachel's old neighborhood with others to dig up new leads.

Many volunteers came together for the May 25, 2002, tree planting and to bury time capsules for Rachel. They'll be dug up in 100 years.

From the onset, Skemp believed Rachel met with foul play. Time has brought the father some solace, especially when realizing how much his daughter was loved. But the razor-sharp pain he felt in the early days of her disappearance often returns without warning.

"Rachel was a beautiful, beautiful girl," he said. "She did not deserve this."

The last time he spoke to his daughter was Christmas Day 1995  just weeks before she vanished. Rachel informed her father she had graduated from listening to pop music to the likes of Alanis Morissette.

After Rachel disappeared, Skemp wandered into her bedroom. A portable compact disc player hung from her bedpost. Skemp placed the headphones over his ears and hit the power button.

Morissette's voice blared at full volume into his ears. He often listens to it today. He said it makes him feel close to her.

Despite the sad reality, Jeff Skemp said he hasn't lost all hope that someone knows something but for whatever reason has remained quiet. He asks that they find the courage to come forward.

Skemp also has a message to his daughter, whom he knows he'll see again some day.

"Rachel," he said, his voice quivering. "I miss you so much. I miss your smile. I miss your laughter, and I'm so sorry I didn't fight for you harder."

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The disappearance of Rachel Mellon


Jan. 31: Rachel Mellon, 13, vanishes into thin air. She had called off from school with a sore throat and was alone in the house with her stepfather, Vince Mellon. No one realized the girl was missing until Rachel's mother, Amy Mellon, returned from work that evening. Vince Mellon later told police he last saw Rachel about 2:30 p.m., as he was on his way out to take a walk with the family dog, Duke. The dog chased a rabbit, according to Vince Mellon, and was returned by a real estate appraiser who was in the area on business. In the time between taking the dog out and Amy Mellon's return home from work, Vince Mellon says he did not look in on Rachel in the bedroom, where he presumed she would be.

Feb. 4: Bolingbrook's deputy police chief, Mike Calcagno, says there is no evidence of foul play in Rachel's disappearance and that she is considered a missing person.

Feb. 6: One week into the case, police are mystified.

"We don't know. We haven't a clue," Calcagno says.

Feb. 8: Rachel's information makes it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Feb. 22: While insisting there is no evidence of foul play, police still have no idea what happened to Rachel. "We're not leaning one way or the other," Calcagno says. "There's no indication of where she went or why. This is still a missing person case."

July 8: A psychic on the "Jerry Springer Show" claims that Rachel is dead. Amy appears on the show along with the psychic, who specializes in searching for missing children.

Oct. 13: Rachel's 14th birthday.

Oct. 19: Rachel's father  Jeff Skemp, the ex-husband of Amy Mellon  returns to the area from Dallas. Skemp reportedly hopes to "stir things up."


Jan. 9: Amy Mellon says she will freeze out Bolingbrook police because they think her second husband killed her daughter. "I found out that they made up their minds that Vince is a suspect and that's that," Amy Mellon says.

Jan. 30: Skemp's father, Ken Skemp, says his son in recent months has received at least two letters demanding he return his daughter and threatening his life if he doesn't. Skemp the elder believes the letters may be a media ploy perpetrated by a Chicago television news reporter.

Jan. 31: Rachel is missing for one year.

July 31: Cynthia Georgantas, a Lockport private detective hired by family members less than two weeks after Rachel disappeared, is afraid no one is talking about Rachel and that could mean she is forgotten.

Aug. 29: Police Cmdr. Richard Darrah, point man in the investigation, says police are working with FBI agents to pursue new leads generated by new information developed in the case. They have decided, however, that they for now cannot make the new information public.

Sept. 3: Skemp opens a curious, anonymous card that offers vague clues to where Rachel's body may be. The letter, printed in green marker on the blank side of a store-bought sympathy card, reads in part: "I keep 'receiving' a vision of a shoe now burned within walking distance of a park or place where she liked to go meet people her own age, her friends. I think it is or was buried there. The police investigation is not going rightly now  but the prevailing opinion they have is correct. Your daughter is very happy, praising God and thanking him in heaven. I know Earthly passing is difficult to take, but know she is exquisitely happy."


Jan. 31: About 30 of Rachel's friends and relatives gathered at the Annerino Center to mark the second anniversary of her disappearance.


Jan. 31: The third anniversary of Rachel's disappearance passes.

Oct. 13: Rachel would celebrate her 17th birthday. Skemp urges the community to keep up posters of his daughter, to continue searching for her and to come forward with any information available about the case.


Jan. 27: Police reveal that a grand jury has heard testimony for nearly two months regarding Rachel's disappearance and officials now believe the teen may have been the victim of a homicide. "Police officials state the probability exists that foul play occurred in Rachel's disappearance," said police Cmdr. Keith George.

Jan. 28: Detectives question Vince Mellon for about nine hours. They also serve a search warrant ordering him to surrender samples of his blood, body hair and saliva. The samples are evidence in a first-degree murder investigation, according to the warrant.

Jan. 31: The fourth anniversary of Rachel's disappearance comes and goes.

Feb. 1: Network executives review Rachel's case for airing on the FOX-TV favorite "America's Most Wanted," but Bolingbrook police pull the plug on immediate plans for the program.

Feb. 2: Amy Mellon endures a two-hour grand jury grilling, then emerges and waits for her husband to make a cursory appearance before the same panel. "I think it's pretty clear they're focusing on one person," says Amy Mellon's attorney, John Schrock.

Feb. 4: Amy Mellon blames police for failing to take her daughter's disappearance seriously four years ago and told of "stakeouts" she has conducted in Indiana and Texas while searching for her missing girl. "I did everything I could to try to find Rachel," Amy Mellon says.

Feb. 9: Amy Mellon sues Bolingbrook police to recover items she says were taken from her Joliet home during an illegal search on Jan. 28. "It comes down to, 'Do we still have a Constitution?'" Schrock says.

Feb. 16: Skemp appears before a grand jury.

Feb. 17: A private eye in Amy Mellon's employ discovers that a telephone in the family's home has been tapped and Schrock wants to know who has had their ears on his client's conversations.

March 10: A Joliet patrolman watching while Bolingbrook police carted Vince Mellon away from his Calla Drive home Jan. 28 later witnessed plainclothes officers carrying a black duffel bag enter the house, it was revealed today. "He can't identify who was who because they were plainclothes," Schrock says.

March 27: A judge orders Bolingbrook police to answer questions about other law enforcement agencies that might have been involved in searching the Mellons' home.

April 4: Forcing a Bolingbrook cop to answer questions in Amy Mellon's civil lawsuit might tip off crooks to a secret weapon in the law's war on crime, Assistant State's Attorney Phil Mock argues.

April 17: Bolingbrook police must reveal the top secret "technique" used in the investigation, but the testimony will remain under wraps.

May 19: Judge Thomas Ewert tosses Amy Mellon's lawsuit after discovery reveals that Bolingbrook police did not unlawfully enter her home.

June 7: Bolingbrook police send a letter to Schrock inquiring into the whereabouts of a published $5,000 reward for information on Rachel's whereabouts.


Jan. 31: The fifth anniversary of Rachel's disappearance passes with far less fanfare than the last.

April 11: Amy Mellon reports to police that she believes her daughter called her Joliet home at least three times one evening last month.


Jan. 31: Skemp marks the seventh anniversary of his daughter's disappearance by signing up volunteers to look for her in the spring.

July 24: Vince Mellon is jailed and charged with slapping around his 15-year-old son.

July 28: Vince Mellon gets someone to post the $200 cash he needs to get out of jail.


Nov. 20: Vince Mellon is jailed on domestic battery charges. He is accused of roughing up Amy Mellon and their son. Vince Mellon also is arrested on three warrants for failing to appear in court, and Amy Mellon is arrested on a county warrant of her own.


Feb. 1: Amy and Vince Mellon both are jailed on theft charges for stiffing a Joliet motel out of a night's stay.

July 30: Rachel's half-brother, Jason Mellon, 17, is arrested in connection with smashing out the windshield of a Shorewood couple's car.

 Joe Hosey, staff writer


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Family, friends remember Rachel Mellon

Teen disappeared 10 years ago

By Rob Johnson

January 28, 2006 - Family and friends held a memorial Saturday night to remember Rachel Mellon.The Bolingbrook teenager's disappearance 10 years ago still remains a tragic mystery.

Friends and family gathered at First Baptist Church of Maywood, where Rachel attended. They sang and prayed in her honor.

One of those in attendance was Rachel's father, Jeff Skemp.

"It's apparent that Rachel has probably passed away and is no longer with us. I think it's time for us to get together and comfort each other and say goodbye to Rachel, give her a proper send off," said Skemp.

One keepsake Skemp has of his daughter is her playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," as she was learning the guitar. Two weeks after the tape was made, Rachel became ill. Instead of going to school, she stayed home in southwest suburban Bolingbrook. The 13-year-old was never seen again.

The last person known to have seen her was her stepfather, Vince Mellon. He complained that police made him a suspect. But he was never charged. In fact, no one has ever been charged in the case.

"Just try to cope and keep going and try to be the person I know Rachel would want me to be," Skemp said.

As time passed without a clue as to Rachel's fate, friends and relatives tried to make sure she wasn't forgotten. They planted a tree in her honor and they made a CD in her memory. An age progression picture was designed to show what she might look like as a young woman.

"It's unfortunate she's not here, but we love her and will never forget her," said Steven Sapoznik, Rachel's friend and classmate.

After a decade, investigators still hope to solve the mystery of the missing girl. But without a break in the case, Rachel's father says, for him, Saturday night's tribute is goodbye.

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Reward set in '96 case of missing girl

Published August 18, 2006

BOLINGBROOK -- A private investigator announced Thursday his agency is offering a $30,000 reward for information in the decade-old case of a missing 13-year-old Bolingbrook girl.

The reward is for information that leads directly to the whereabouts and recovery of Rachel Mellon or results in the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her disappearance, said detective James Miller, owner of Chicago-based Investigative Services Agency Inc.

"We have an indication that some people might come forward at this point in time," Miller said.

Rachel was reported missing on Jan. 31, 1996. She had stayed home from middle school because of a sore throat. Her stepfather told police she went to take a nap and was discovered missing by a younger sibling about an hour later.

Anyone with information about Rachel's disappearance is asked to call Bolingbrook police at 630-226-8620, Bolingbrook Crime Stoppers at 630-378-4772 or the Investigative Services Agency at 312-755-9700. Callers to Crime Stoppers or the agency may remain anonymous.

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Aug 31, 2006 5:30 am US/Central

Man Once Investigated In Disappearance Off To Jail

Vince Mellon Sentenced In Violation Of Terms Of Unrelated Battery Conviction

(CBS) CHICAGO A man once investigated in the 1996 disappearance of his stepdaughter is headed to jail for an unrelated case.

Vince Mellon was the last person to see Rachel Mellon alive in 1996, but no charges were ever brought against him.

In 2004, Mellon pleaded guilty to domestic battery. The Chicago Tribune reported that on Wednesday, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for violating the terms of that conviction.

Rachel disappeared on Jan. 31, 1996. She was home from school that day with a sore throat.

A memorial service was held by her family earlier this year.

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Daughter Missing 13 Years, Dad Says "I Can't Give Up"

(WBBM) - Balloons, prayers and emotional words of thanks highlighted a ceremony for a Bolingbrook girl who was 13 when she disappeared, and has been missing almost as long.

WBBM's Bob Roberts reports.

"It warms the cockles of my soul to know that so many people remember Rachel, and so many people were affected by this," said Jeff Skemp, the father of the missing girl, Rachel Mellon. "It keeps me going and I want to let you know I appreciate each and every one of you."

Nearly 80 people were present for the ceremony, in Bolingbrook's Wopfler Park.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar was too ill to attend the ceremony, but sent a proclamation naming Wednesday "Abduction Awareness Day" in his community. Police officials offered fingerprinting for children before the ceremony began.

The emotion-filled ceremony was highlighted by the release of a different group of balloons for each year that Rachel has been missing. U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) released one of the balloons, while others were released by the families of four other missing Chicago-area residents: Stacy Peterson, Tionda and Diamond Bradley and Bradley Olsen.

Skemp for years has maintained a Web site dedicated to Rachel that has expanded to include news and messages about other missing children and adults.

He said he has gone through anger and resignation, and fully expects that if Rachel is found she will be dead, but said he still seeks closure.

"I can't give up. I gotta keep going, and I live my life for her," he told WBBM.

Skemp described Rachel as the "most happy, joyful" child he has ever seen.

"No matter what happened she would always have a smile on her face. She always wanted to do crazy stuff and have fun," he said. "No matter how bad things were, she was always happy."

Rachel disappeared Jan. 31, 1996, after phoning school to say she would be staying home with a sore throat.

Stepfather Vince Mellon was the last person to see her alive, but no charges were ever brought against him. Mellon pleaded guilty in 2004 to an unrelated domestic battery charge, and was sentenced in 2006 to 20 days in jail for violating the terms of that conviction.

On the Net:

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Missing persons group visits Bolingbrook


August 28, 2008


BOLINGBROOK -- This week the mayor of Bolingbrook proclaimed Wednesday Abduction Prevention Day, just in time for a national group devoted to missing people to pay a visit.

Mayor Roger Claar made the proclamation right after paying tribute to the independence days of Pakistan and India. While reading the short statement during Tuesday's village board meeting, he dropped the names of Bolingbrook residents Rachel Mellon Skemp, who vanished in 1996, and Stacy Peterson, who disappeared in October.

Wednesday, the Community United Effort Center For Missing Persons stopped in Bolingbrook to raise awareness of the Skemp and Peterson cases during a 17-state tour.

Still missing

Rachel was 13 years old when she was last seen alive. The day she disappeared, Rachel was home alone with her stepfather, Vince Mellon. She had a sore throat and called in sick to school. No one realized Rachel was missing until the evening, when her mother came home from work.

About four years after Rachel vanished, police picked up Vince Mellon and held him for nine hours at the Bolingbrook station house. Police then served a warrant ordering he surrender samples of his blood, saliva and body hair as part of a first-degree murder investigation.

Despite the presumption that Rachel was murdered, no one has been charged in connection with her disappearance.

State police declared Stacy Peterson the victim of a "potential homicide" soon after she vanished and named her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson, a suspect.

But as with the Mellon case, no one has been charged in connection with the young woman's disappearance.

Stacy is Peterson's fourth wife. State police also are investigating the March 2004 death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio. State police found nothing untoward the first time they probed Savio's death, but are getting another crack at it in the wake of Stacy's disappearance.

Village not involved

During Tuesday's meeting, Claar said Peterson had visited his home in the line of duty but never in a social capacity. Peterson contradicted this, saying he had been to Claar's house for Christmas parties.

Peterson also explained why he would go to Claar's house while on duty.

"When you're the watch commander, and he wants answers to things, he calls you and says, 'I want this and I want that.'" he said.

Claar said that beyond proclaiming Wednesday Abduction Prevention Day, the village is not involved in the Stacy Peterson case.

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Proposed law may give a new look to case of missing girl

Rachel Mellon disappeared 12 years ago. Could legislation help solve the mystery?

By Christy Gutowski


Her name may not be as well known as Lisa Stebic or Stacy Peterson, but the similarly unexplained disappearance of a young Bolingbrook girl more than 12 years ago remains a haunting mystery.

Rachel Marie Mellon was 13 when she vanished Jan. 31, 1996. That bitter-cold morning, the bubbly seventh-grader stayed home from school sick with a flu bug, resting in a pink sweat shirt, yellow sweat pants and slippers.

That evening, she was gone.

Despite exhaustive search efforts on land, in the air and under water, no clues have emerged revealing her whereabouts.

State lawmakers on Friday sent to the governor's desk legislation that may affect the possible prosecution of murder suspects in cases such as that of Rachel, Stebic and Peterson in which authorities say they strongly suspect foul play but are limited by a lack of physical evidence without a body.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow pushed for the measure that would allow a judge at a pretrial hearing in a murder case to determine whether so-called hearsay evidence - testimony or documents that quote someone secondhand who is not in court - may be admitted at trial.

Prosecutors would have to prove in a pretrial hearing those statements are reliable and that the defendant's wrongdoing made the witness unavailable to testify. The legislation is less broad but similar to an earlier failed effort that grew after 16-year-old Erin Justice was killed in March 2004, less than a month after accusing her stepfather of raping her in Naperville. He now is on death row.

Glasgow is encouraging area police departments to review unsolved murder cases to see if the new proposal would apply.

Rachel Mellon's father, Jeff Skemp, said he long ago gave up hope that his hazel-eyed child is still alive. Still, he is buoyed by the legislation and hopes it may some day give him some measure of closure.

"To me," he said, "it would be a wonderful blessing if anything ever happened."

A life interrupted

Rachel would be 26 in October.

Skemp pictures his only child as a college graduate who fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher.

Then, he is jolted back into a reality in which he harbors no such illusions.

"I haven't had any hope that she's alive for a long time," he said. "There's been no sign of her in 12 years, but there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about her."

Before she vanished, Rachel lived with her mother, Amy, and stepfather, Vince Mellon, who helped raise her since she was 3. They have two other children.

Skemp lived in Texas when Rachel disappeared, but he moved back to Illinois that same year to help find her.

From the onset, police have focused much of their investigation on the last person to have reported seeing Rachel alive ­- her stepfather.

They said Vince Mellon told them he stayed home with Rachel while between jobs. Mellon said the two played Nintendo before he ventured into wind chills of almost 20 below zero about 2:30 p.m. to walk the family's German shepherd, Duke, while Rachel napped.

Police said Mellon told them Duke slipped off his leash while chasing a rabbit. He reported returning home about 30 minutes later but didn't notice Rachel missing.

The family notified police later that evening. Authorities found no signs of forced entry to their home. Only a blue blanket and two pillows were missing.

Rachel's coat, shoes and her purse weren't taken.

The athletic, 5-foot-2-inch, 78-pound girl seemingly vanished in broad daylight.

Police monitored her bank account. Not even a penny was touched. A ransom note never came. There have been no phone calls from her.

Detectives could not find any witnesses who saw Vince Mellon walking the dog that day. He also had some scratches on his body, police said, which Mellon said happened while working on his car.

And then there's Rachel's journal, which authorities found tucked underneath her bed, in which an entry penned a couple of months before her disappearance alleges her stepfather inappropriately touched and kissed her.

Vince Mellon has a criminal history that includes convictions for drunken driving, resisting arrest, battery and domestic battery, according to Will County court records.

But despite numerous interviews, lie-detector tests, saliva and DNA samples taken, phone taps and the convening of a Will County grand jury in 2000, Vince Mellon never has been charged with Rachel's disappearance.

He maintains his innocence. He and Amy Mellon still are married.

"We've been through an awful lot," 41-year-old Vince Mellon said during a brief telephone interview from his home in Tennessee. "We appreciate you keeping Rachel's name out there and to keep the story going in the news, but we have nothing to say. They (the police) pretty much put us through hell and high water."

Reliable hearsay?

Lisa Stebic vanished April 30, 2007, just before her 38th birthday in Plainfield.

Stacy Peterson was 23 when she was reported missing Oct. 28 in Bolingbrook.

Both cases produced a media frenzy, with friends and family telling reporters each woman wanted a divorce and felt threatened by their husbands, neither of whom has been charged with harming his wife.

State Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi sponsored the legislation allowing certain hearsay testimony, which could include journal entries or alleged threats, to be heard in a murder trial.

Critics argue the Joliet Democrat's proposal is contrary to the 6th Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront his or her accuser in court. Earlier this summer, in a California murder case in which a man was accused of killing his girlfriend, the U.S. Supreme Court again reiterated hearsay testimony may be admitted into trial only if it is proven the accused's wrongdoing is the reason the witness is unavailable to testify. Still, Wilhelmi insisted his law is narrowly focused and includes several safeguards.

"There are going to be a lot of cases that this could affect," the senator said. "We need to make sure our laws are adequate to deal with these acts of violence. We need to make sure juries hear this type of evidence."

His bill passed July 10. Lawmakers sent it Friday to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his consideration. Glasgow and Wilhelmi said they believe the governor will soon sign it into law. A spokesman for Blagojevich said Monday he is reviewing it.

Attorney Joel Brodsky, who represents Stacy Peterson's husband, Drew, said he doubts the legislation will affect his case and questioned whether it would withstand muster when reviewed by a higher court.

Ironically, Drew Peterson worked on the Rachel Mellon case during his tenure as a Bolingbrook police officer.

"It's really an emotional law rather than a well-thought-out law," Brodsky said. "I don't think it's a wise law. It has the potential to cause wrongful convictions, which Illinois has a history of, because it's going to allow in a lot of unreliable stuff."

Recalling Rachel

She has never been found, but police aren't giving up nor is the case closed.

Initially, police and the FBI searched for Rachel using helicopters, dogs, horses, dive teams, all-terrain vehicles, ground canvasses and thermal imaging.

Detectives traveled from Washington, D.C., to Montana and Dallas to chase possible leads. They even worked with Philippine national police, who circulated Rachel's photo long ago to see if she might have run away to her mother's birthplace.

"It haunts me," said Terry Kernc, a retired Bolingbrook police lieutenant who long investigated Rachel's disappearance. "I thought when I retired, I could forget, but I can't. People don't just disappear. I look at it as a failure because we never found Rachel, and no one ever got arrested. Rachel deserves better."

Bolingbrook police detective Mark Revis is the investigation's current case agent. He was the original evidence technician more than 12 years ago.

He called the hearsay legislation an "interesting avenue" that police plan to pursue. He said tips still slowly come in and searches, as recent as last year, are ongoing.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also has taken an interest in the case; a 24-year private detective, Cindy Georgantas, involved from the start, said the search for Rachel "never stops."

Volunteers such as Anne Bielby, who did not know Rachel but lived nearby, maintain the Web site to keep her name out there, advertise other Chicago-area missing person cases, and link police with outside resources to help with searches.

Through the years, trees have been planted, time capsules buried, rewards offered, memorial services held and babies named in Rachel's honor.

"It warms my soul," Jeff Skemp said, later adding: "I'm glad I'm a believer in God because, ultimately, justice is waiting."

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Missing Persons Support Tour Adds Wattage To Stacy Peterson Spotlight

(WBBM) - A North Carolina-based missing persons' support group is in the Chicago area to try to put the spotlight on four such cases.  But one such case needed no such help.

WBBM's Bob Roberts reports.

In contrast with the small gathering of area residents at a stop focusing on Tionda and Diamond Bradley, who were 10 and 3 when they disappeared in 2001, and the emotional ceremony for Rachel Mellon, who was 13 when she disappeared in 1996, there was a much more freewheeling atmosphere at the stop spotlighting the cace of Stacy Peterson of Bolingbrook.

Instead, a martial arts expert from the ATA Martial Arts School in Montgomery gave self-defense lessons.  Pizza and soda were provided to all who attended, and people walked off with bunches of carnations from a local florist who donated 304 of the flowers -- one for each day Peterson has been missing.

Remarks lasted only a few minutes.  But Peterson's sister, Cassandra Cales, said she hoped the spotlight on the Peterson case rubbed off on the others and that they could offer useful advice.

Asked what she hoped to accomplish, Cales told WBBM, "To show others how we do it and get other media attention for their cases -- support and keeping everyone else's missing cases out there, and hopefully bring forward people who have information."

She said the message of determination is important.

"(We're) letting everyone know we're not going away that that we're still searching and we will find the missing loved ones and bring them home," Cales said.

Cales said a close-knit group of 30 people continue to search each weekend for Peterson.  She said the group pays little attention to comments by Peterson's husband, retired Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, or his attorney.

They have contended that Stacy Peterson left Drew Peterson, with plans to cover her tracks.

Bolingbrook Police Chief Ray McGury asked those who attended to give his department another chance in efforts to find Peterson and those responsible for her disappearance.

"Early on, there wasn't a lot of love for us, and I understand that and I accept that, and I accept full responsibility to try to make this right," he said.  "We're going to make it right."

Illinois State Police are spearheading the investigation, in part because of Drew Peterson's former association with the department.  He retired a month after his wife disappeared.

The executive director and founder of the Cue Center for Missing Persons, Monica Caison told WBBM that each of the four families being spotlighted in the Chicago area were allowed to plan their own itinerary.

The two-day stop is part of a 12-day, 17-state, 5,300 mile journey spotlighting 110 cases.

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Cold case squad looks into Rachel Mellon case

February 6, 2009


Those who care say they will never give up searching for Rachel Mellon Skemp, the Bolingbrook girl who disappeared from her home 13 years ago on a bitterly cold winter day.

The heartache, they say, has no end because there is no closure to Rachel's story.

Closure is something Detective Cindy Goergantas wants to bring to the case.

Georgantas, with the Lemont Police Department, is part of a "cold case" unit that is searching for Rachel.

"I was working on Rachel's case from almost the start. We have more modern equipment now," Georgantas said.

The search team includes Sean Henady, president of Aerial Imaging, which offers the chance to search from the air as well as the ground for clues to what happened that fateful day 13 years ago.

A happy girl

"Rachel was a good girl. She was a 13-year-old and just a nice little girl," Georgantas said.

A Web site dedicated to her memory shows her involved in plays at school, playing the guitar, laughing a lot and being a typically lively, happy 13-year-old.

She was home sick from school the day she disappeared, Jan. 31, 1996. According to reports, her stepfather, who was home at the time, went out to take the dog for a walk. When he returned, Rachel was gone.

Investigators were told Rachel's sleeping bag and pillow were missing, but not her purse or diary. The diary was found under her bed and may eventually be used as evidence, if a new state law allows it.

Georgantas hopes some new and more revealing evidence of what happened on that chilly January day can still be located with the use of the new equipment that the cold case team now has available.

She and her team are also involved with eight other Chicago area missing person cases, including the Stacy Peterson case in Bolingbrook.

The missing may have been abducted. They may no longer be alive. But Georgantas believes there are similarities between all of the cases.

"It takes a sick, devious mind," she said, to commit these kinds of crimes.

A father's hope

Rachel's father, Jeffrey Skemp, is hoping the cold case team will be able to solve the 13-year-old mystery of his missing daughter.

Skemp said that although the search has been a long and so far fruitless one, he is encouraged by all the people in Bolingbrook who still care about his daughter.

"It is overwhelming to me that this senseless tragedy and this beautiful child of joy is still remembered after all these years," he said. "Because of the love and support that we give each other once again we'll make it through this difficult time."

One of the most trying aspects of the whole tragic affair are the thoughts of what might have been, he said.

"I always envisioned her being a teacher. She loved to read and write," he said.

Perhaps she would be getting married this year. Or maybe even driving her own children to school in Bolingbrook.

But for now, those who love her must still concentrate on the almost endless search for closure.

"I still have hope of them (the cold case team) finding her," her father said.

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A letter written by Rachel's father (from Rachel's family website)


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Well, this is one of those times when thoughts of Rachel seem to come to the forefront of our minds. It has now been 13 years, half of Rachel's life, since she vanished and our lives were forever changed.

I want to thank all of you for your efforts, prayers, and good thoughts in Rachel's behalf. You all have shown me love and prayers over the years that literally warm the cockles of my soul. It is overwhelming to me that this senseless tragedy and this beautiful child of joy is still remembered after all these years. And because of the love and support that we give each other once again we'll make it through this difficult time.

It was especially heartening to visit with Rachel's brother and sister at Rachel's Cue Center Stop this past August. Remembering Rachel with them meant more than words can say. Thank you so much to Dawn and Al and Windy for providing the beautiful Prayer Cards.

As the year progresses, searches will be continuing not only for Rachel but for many others who are still missing in this area. A new "Cold Case Squad" is currently reviewing information about Rachel and we have asked for their help in researching areas near where Rachel disappeared. The National Center for Missing Exploited Children is once again offering help through their Project Alert. Hopefully, this valuable resource will be utilized not only for Rachel, but for all missing children in our area. In addition, look for Rachel soon on the Laura Recovery Center website. They will also be helping as the search continues.

Many thanks to Forensic Artist Lois Gibson, who is currently doing an age progression of Rachel to bring her picture up to 26 years. I would also very much like to thank my church for donating $15,000 to the National Center for Missing Exploited Children this past year in appreciation for what NCMEC has already done for Rachel and other missing kids.

I ask that you continue to not only pray for Rachel but for the many other families who are suffering the emptiness of having a missing loved one. We will continue to support each other, to do what we can, and most importantly we will always remember Rachel.

May God bless us all and let's all keep in touch this year.

Jeffrey L. Skemp

Father of Rachel Marie

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Unusual tactic to help find girl missing 14 years

Posted: Wednesday, 23 June 2010 6:04AM Steve Miller Reporting

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Two views of what Rachel Mellon might look like at 27. ( images)

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CHICAGO (WBBM) -- It was more than 14 years ago when 13-year-old Rachel Mellon disappeared in Bolingbrook - and a 30,000 reward had been offered for her return.

Now, the reward has been lowered.

The volunteers who have been working on the Rachel Mellon case admit it's a novel approach.

What was a $30,000 reward is now $20,000.

"It's being lowered to $20,000 and we have a time limit on it also because nothing seems to be happening with the case and we're trying to maybe stimulate interest with someone to come forward."

James Miller is the Chicago private investigator who's working on the Mellon case pro bono.

"We're feeling that if someone believes that this reward has a time limit on it, it might cause them to act."

Miller also says financial backing for the reward fund just isn't as strong as it once was.

Also, two new age progression sketches of Rachel Mellon are being released. She would be 27 years old.

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A new age-enhanced photo shows how Rachel Marie Mellon might look today, more than 14 years after the Bolingbrook girl vanished, with the hope of generating new clues in a case that has long stumped authorities.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children long ago took an interest in solving the mystery; a private detective, Cindy Georgantas, involved from the start, remains on the case, and Bolingbrook police still consider it an open investigation.

Anyone with information is urged to call either Bolingbrook police at (630) 226-8620 or the tip line (630) 37-TIPS2. Visit for more details.

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Bolingbrook Teen Rachel Mellon Now Missing 15 Years

Rachel Mellon's missing person case is two years older than she was when she disappeared.

By Joseph Hosey |  January 31, 2011



On the left is Rachel before she disappeared at the age of 13. On the right is an age-progression illustration of what she might look like now.  Credit

For a long time, Rachel Mellon was Bolingbrook’s most notable missing person.

She’s not anymore, having lost that honor to Stacy Peterson, the fourth wife of retired Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson, who's been missing for more than two years.

Mellon would be 28 now; Jan. 31 is the 15th anniversary of her disappearance.

On that day in 1996, she stayed home from school with a sore throat and was alone with her unemployed stepfather, Vince Mellon. The first time anyone realized Rachel was not sleeping in her room was when her mother, Amy Mellon, arrived home from work that evening and went to get her daughter for dinner.

Vince Mellon told the police he last saw Rachel at about 2:30 p.m., just before he took the family dog out for a walk.

The dog got loose, he told police, and ran off after a rabbit. Vince Mellon made an effort to catch the German shepherd but gave up and went home. Later in the day, a real estate appraiser in the area on business returned the dog, Vince Mellon told police.

All the while, Vince Mellon said he presumed Rachel was asleep in her room.

In the first years following Rachel’s disappearance, her mother complained of the way the police handled the case. Amy Mellon claimed it took the cops an hour to show up to her house after she called, and then told her they could take no action for 24 hours after the initial report.

For two days after Rachel’s disappearance, the police considered the matter a runaway case, despite freezing temperatures and snow on the ground the day she disappeared, and evidence that the teen took nothing with her but slippers, the sweats she had been wearing and a blue blanket.

More than four years later, Bolingbrook police took Vince Mellon into custody for nine hours and served him with a warrant to obtain blood, saliva and hair samples as part of a first-degree murder investigation. Vince and Amy Mellon were brought before a grand jury and the police revealed they had made “significant developments†in the case through the use of “technical advances.â€

That was 11 years ago. No indictments were made and police have never revealed what the significant developments were that prompted them to take those actions.

Vince Mellon has legal trouble in the years after Rachel’s disappearance. He has been arrested on charges of theft, battery, drunken driving and domestic battery. None of his cases were related to the disappearance of Rachel.

According to the Will County Sheriff's Department, Vince Mellon is a wanted man right now. There is an active warrant for his arrest relating to his 2005 driving under the influence case.

Several years ago, Amy and Vince Mellon left Illinois and moved to Cleveland, Tenn. It is not known if they remain there or have moved again.

Rachel’s father, Jeff Skemp, was divorced from Amy and living in Texas when his daughter disappeared. In the past, he has been a vocal critic of the manner in which the Bolingbrook police handled Rachel’s case but could not be reached for comment on the advent of yet another anniversary of her disappearance.

Skemp was quoted in a statement recently released by the Web site

“Rachel's case has never gotten the national exposure that she deserves and now is the time for that to happen,†Skemp said in the statement.

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Bolingbrook girl's '96 disappearance still a mystery

Dad focuses on keeping her name in the public: 'Miracles do happen,' he says

By Michelle Manchir, Tribune reporter

3:02 a.m. CST, February 5, 2011

Jeff Skemp still listens to the copy of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" that he pulled from his daughter's CD player the weekend after she disappeared 15 years ago.

"It's the only thing I have of Rachel's," he said from his Forest Park home.

Rachel Mellon was 13 on Jan. 31, 1996, the day she stayed home from school with her stepfather because of a sore throat. Her stepfather, Vince Mellon, had left the house in the 600 block of Melissa Drive to walk their dog while Rachel was napping. She was found missing from her bedroom later that day by a sibling. A blanket and pillows were also missing.

Fifteen years later, Bolingbrook police say the investigation is open and active, but there are no significant leads or findings.

"We are looking at every avenue at this point," Lt. Mike Rompa said. "We have not ruled out anything."

Vince Mellon and Rachel's mother, Amy Mellon, were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in 2000, and investigators took blood, hair and saliva samples from Vince Mellon. No one has ever been charged.

The Mellons have rarely spoken publicly since the incident and no longer live in Bolingbrook.

Skemp, a 52-year-old taxicab dispatcher, sees media inquiries as a way to honor Rachel, and possibly help turn up any leads on the off-chance she was kidnapped, but not killed.

"I'm still hopeful that at some point in time someone will say something," he said.

Skemp had been divorced from Rachel's mother since his daughter was 3, and he was living in Dallas when she disappeared. He would like to see some national media attention for his daughter's case, hoping there is someone with information outside the Chicago area.

In the meantime, Skemp said he focuses on helping operate, a website set up by friends and supporters of the family, and monitoring Facebook and Twitter accounts sharing news and information about Rachel.

He last saw his daughter the summer before her disappearance, when she visited him for a month in Dallas. It still haunts him, he said, that Rachel told her uncle before she left that she would like to live in Texas with her dad.

Rachel was on the honor roll at middle school, played the guitar and liked science class. Skemp imagines that she would have become a teacher. She would be 28.

For now, he focuses on keeping her name in the public. He wants people to remember his daughter as he does.

"I don't have much hope at this point she's still alive," he said. "Miracles do happen. There is a small part of me that fantasizes about that miracle happening and always will."

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50 people in 50 days: Girl vanished after taking day off from school

February 21st, 2011

10:41 PM ET

Editor's note: Nancy Grace's new show on HLN, "Nancy Grace: America's Missing," is dedicated to finding 50 people in 50 days. As part of the effort, which relies heavily on audience participation,'s news blog This Just In will feature the stories of the missing.

This is the 26th case, and it was shown Monday night on HLN.

Rachel Mellon was 13 when she disappeared from Bolingbrook, Illinois, on January 13, 1996.

She had stayed at home with her stepfather instead of going to school that day because she had a sore throat. Her stepfather said that he left the house while she was taking a nap, and that when he returned, she was gone.

Also gone were pillows from Rachel’s bedroom and a blue blanket. The temperature outside was below zero, and police say they believe the girl didn’t leave on her own. There was no forced entry to the home and the honor roll student’s coat, shoes and purse were all left behind.

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