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Missing Girl: Melissa McGuinn - NJ - 03/06/1988

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Non-Family Abduction


Posted Image

Age Progressed

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DOB:  Aug 3, 1987

Age at Missing: 7 months

Missing:  Mar 6, 1988

Missing From: TRENTON, NJ

Sex:  Female

Race:  White

Hair:  Blonde

Eyes:  Blue

Height:  2'4" (71cm)

Weight:  16lbs (7kg)

The photo on the right is a composite drawing of what Melissa may look like at age 24. She was last seen in the company of a woman who was living with her parents. The woman is mentally incompetent and gave conflicting reports about Melissa. Melissa was last seen wearing white flowered quilted overalls, a dark pink hooded-sweater, and pink socks.


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)

Trenton Police Department (New Jersey) - Missing Persons Unit 1-609-989-4170

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Trenton missing baby case haunts lone investigator 24 years later

Published: Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 8:20 AM    Updated: Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 11:34 AM

Alex Zdan/The Times

TRENTON — The trail appears to have gone completely cold, except for a lone investigator still working the case. Twenty-four years ago this morning, 7-month-old Melissa Diane McGuinn disappeared without a trace.

On that day back in 1988, a mentally handicapped housemate of Melissa’s mother first asked permission before taking the baby outside. When she returned with a neighbor shortly afterward, the baby was not with her.

A huge search ensued, and though police quickly determined that the housemate, Wanda Faye Reed, was responsible, the child’s body was never found. Reed initially said she threw Melissa into the Delaware River, but years later changed her story to maintain she sold the baby for $200 worth of drugs. Neither scenario could be trusted. Police later found that, due to Reed’s mental state, she could be led to say virtually anything.

In all the time that’s passed since that cold morning, the key question of what happened to Melissa has never come close to being answered.

“That’s our missing link: What happened to her?†asked New Jersey State Police Detective Sgt. Wanda Stojanov.

Stojanov has been searching for the answer since 2008, when she was assigned the case while working in the Missing Persons Unit. Despite a transfer to the Stolen Auto Unit, she’s still trying to make progress on the case, knowing that nobody else is available to do it.

“Part of that is being a mom myself,†she said in Trenton yesterday, outside the home on the 600 block of Lamberton where the McGuinns and Reed used to live. No parent would want law enforcement to drop the case, no matter how long it takes. “I’d like to know ... there’s someone who’s still looking.â€

Two days after the child’s disappearance, Trenton police arrested Reed and charged her with kidnapping, but they couldn’t levy a murder charge without Melissa’s body. Reed’s mental capacity, described as that of a 7-year-old child, made a conviction even more daunting, and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office dropped all charges in December 1989.

Despite three days of initial searching and a psychic leading city police and firefighters on a fruitless search of the Delaware River in August 1988, no trace of Melissa was ever found. Her mother, Rebecca, and father, Robert, moved to Arkansas and Reed headed to Louisiana.

In 2008, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the State Police to ask if they would take on the case. The national center later produced an age-progressed image of Melissa, using the faces of her mother and two brothers born after her disappearance to theorize what Melissa would look like in her early 20s.

Stojanov is hoping someone will come forward with new information that Melissa is alive somewhere, possibly unaware that she is the person who generated front-page headlines in Trenton in 1988.

“There’s still leads,†she said.

Even today, the McGuinn case is a web of motivations, secrets and lies. The McGuinns and Reed and her common-law husband were bonded by a shared home, Stojanov said.

“There’s so much to this story, I don’t know where to begin some days,†she said.

The neighbor whose home Reed went to and who walked her back home and several witnesses put Reed in the vicinity of Lamberton and Coates streets, but gone for just eight minutes. Because of that, Stojanov thinks the theory that Melissa was thrown into the river is implausible. Standing behind the family’s former home and looking at Waterfront Park across Route 29, Stojanov said it would be difficult to make it to the Delaware and back so quickly.

“I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like it’s possible, but we don’t rule it out,†she said.

If Melissa died but her body was not tossed into the river, it could have remained undetected on land, Stojanov said.

The city detective who handled the abduction is dead, and most of the men on the force are since retired or passed away as well. Robert McGuinn died in 2008.

To rule herself out as a suspect, the girl’s mother, Rebecca McGuinn, came to New Jersey this past August to take a polygraph. McGuinn passed the review, popularly known as a “lie-detector test,†leading authorities to believe she didn’t participate in any potential conspiracy.

“If there was anything, she didn’t know about it,†Stojanov said. “I think if there was, they wouldn’t have called the police so fast. Because they didn’t like the police, and the police didn’t like them.â€

“She seemed credible,†Stojanov said.

Reed remains the most likely suspect, as she had the strongest possible motive.

“She might’ve been jealous,†Stojanov said. “There was a party the night before … and people were paying attention to Melissa instead of her child, (2-month-old) Jimmy.â€

Reed claimed it was the neighbor with whom she came back who bought the baby in exchange for drugs, but Stojanov has interviewed the woman twice and she’s been cooperative. Polygraphing her is an option, though.

Rebecca McGuinn is still invested in the case, watching and hoping from far off.

“The mother cares,†Stojanov said. “The mother does care, otherwise she wouldn’t have tried to come back to New Jersey.â€

Anyone with information on Melissa McGuinn should call the New Jersey State Police’s Missing Persons Unit at (609) 882-2000, ext. 2893, or toll free at (800) 709-7090.

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N.J. missing baby cold case: State Police test DNA for possible match 26 years after girl disappeared from Trenton


By Keith Brown | Times of Trenton

on August 08, 2014 at 11:46 AM, updated August 08, 2014 at 2:54 PM


TRENTON -- The N.J. State Police is awaiting DNA test results on a possible match for Melissa Diane McGuinn, who disappeared from Trenton in 1988 when she was 7 months old, authorities said today.


Three previous DNA tests on women who believed they could be a match for the missing girl have been returned negative. A social media campaign to "Find Baby Melissa" and recent news stories renewed interest in the decades old case.


At least one of the four women who have been tested asked police to be included, Trooper Jeff Flynn said.


"There are a lot of people out there who don't know where they came from," Flynn said. "Maybe they were adopted under strange circumstances. This is part of our driving force to get this (story) out nationally to find someone who maybe doesn't know where they came from. And if they fit the age and the background, we can test it.''


The ability to test DNA for possible identification is a recent development, said State Police Detective Paul Sciortino, one of the lead investigators on the case.


State Police took over the investigation from the Trenton Police in 2008, Sciortino said. That's when investigators discovered that hospitals in the state were required to keep blood samples from every newborn baby on file for 23 years, Sciortino said.


The time was just about to expire on Melissa's sample, Sciortino said.


Since then, a woman from the Netherlands, one in Iowa and a third from California have had their DNA tested. All have been ruled, out, Sciortino said.


The woman currently being tested was recommended to police by her half-brother. She lives in Texas, Sciortino said. It is the only lead in the case, he said.


The results of the latest DNA test are not expected until September or October, Sciortino said.


The Times of Trenton detailed in March the first visit by Melissa's mother, Rebecca House, to the scene of the disappearance since 1988. House stood beside her former Trenton home and expressed hope that someday, her daughter would be found.


House has never given up hope that her only daughter is still alive, despite the strange circumstance under which she disappeared.


House’s roommate had taken the baby outside the Lamberton Street home they shared on the morning of March 6, 1988, and came back without the child just minutes later.


At first, the roommate, Wanda Faye Reed, had said a man knocked her down and took Melissa. Then she said she gave the baby to a man in a car. Finally, she claimed she threw the infant into the icy Delaware River a short distance away.


Reed suffered from a mental disability, and her versions of what happened have always been in doubt. Despite intense searches on land and water in 1988, no trace of Melissa has ever been found.


When House visited the residence where Melissa disappeared with The Times of Trenton earlier this year, she wore on her right wrist a charm bracelet, pink and silver, with a mother’s inscription on it.


“That represents Melissa,” House said, flipping the bracelet so the dangling heart on the piece of jewelry rests on her wrist. “She’s my only daughter.”

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