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Missing Woman: Debbie Marie Melo - MA - 06/20/2000

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Name: Debbie Marie Melo

Classification: Endangered Missing Adult

Date of Birth: 1969-10-17

Date Missing: 2000-06-20

From City/State: Weymouth, MA

Age at Time of Disappearance: 30

Gender: Female

Race: White

Height: 63 inches

Weight: 114 pounds

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

Complexion: Medium

Identifying Characteristics: Tattoo of a "rose" on right shoulder with the name "Louie" underneath.

Clothing: Blue sundress with white flowers and white shirt underneath.

Jewelry: Diamond ring, ring with the name "Debbie" worn on index finger.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Debbie's husband indicated that he let her out of the vehicle on Rt. 18 in Weymouth, MA after an argument in the vehicle.

Investigative Agency: Massachusetts State Police

Phone: (781) 830-4800

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Mass. Woman's Disappearance Still Unsolved

2:14 AM PDT, June 28, 2005

By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press Writer

TAUNTON, Mass. -- A few faded yellow ribbons can still be found near Memorial Park, where Debbie Melo played as a child, and along the highway where she was last seen. And Melo's family still puts up missing posters with her picture, hoping that someone will remember seeing her and report the information to police.

But the family feels no closer to finding her than they did the day she disappeared: June 20, 2000.

"It's heart-wrenching knowing that we don't have anything to go on. We don't have any type of closure, nowhere to go visit when we are thinking of her. All we can do is say a prayer," said Patty DeMoura, Melo's younger sister.

Melo's husband, Luis Melo, has said he last saw his wife when she got out of their car after an argument. He says he left her on the side of Route 18, near the South Weymouth Naval Air Station, and drove away, and when he circled back a short time later she was gone.

As they searched for Debby Melo, her family became more and more suspicious of her husband. The couple had a stormy 14-year marriage, family members said.

Police labeled Melo's disappearance "suspicious," but have never identified Luis Melo as a suspect.

Still, says Weymouth Police Chief James Thomas, "There was an odd set of circumstances."

"First of all, it's difficult to believe that an argument in a car could escalate to such a pitch in such a short time that somebody would have to get out of the car -- that to me is odd -- and to go up the road a mile and then to turn around and have the person not be there, on a major roadway like Route 18 is odd too," Thomas said.

The couple married when they were teenagers, had two children and managed a Dunkin' Donuts in Braintree together.

They fought frequently, DeMoura said. Debbie Melo, who was 30 when she disappeared, had taken out a restraining order against her husband in 1996, but the couple remained together until her disappearance.

Three years after she vanished, Luis Melo pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges for shoving and hitting a girlfriend. A year later, the girlfriend took out a restraining order against him.

Luis Melo has "cut off all contact" between his wife's family and his children, Alyssa, now 18, and Luis Jr., now 15, said DeMoura.

"I've sent them cards, but they've been sent back to me," she said. "I've also lost a niece and nephew, and they were just as close as my children to me."

He hung up when a reporter called Friday seeking comment on the fifth anniversary of his wife's disappearance. In 2002, he told The Patriot Ledger that he did not know where his wife was.

"Life goes on," he said then. "I just want somebody to find her, so everything will be over."

Over the years, Melo's family hired a private detective, conducted numerous searches themselves and put up thousands of posters around southeastern Massachusetts. They've held vigils, fund-raisers and memorial Masses for her, offered a $5,000 reward and put her name and photo on missing-persons Web sites. In June 2001, her stepfather, Joseph Gagnon, was stabbed to death when he got into a fight with a man over Melo's disappearance.

"You think of it the first thing when you wake up in the morning, and you think of it before you go to bed at night," said Steve DeMoura, Debbie Melo's brother-in-law.

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Confrontation over missing woman may lead to charges

By Terence J. Downing, Enterprise staff writer

TAUNTON  Tensions between the two families of a missing Taunton woman erupted Wednesday night into a confrontation that could lead to criminal charges, according to police.

The confrontation occurred on West Water Street between Luis Melo, 36, of 60 Baylies Road and Richard Whalley, 42, of 96 Old Colony Ave., in East Taunton.

Melo's wife, Debbie, mysteriously disappeared five years ago on June 20.

Whalley is Debbie Melo's brother and has been outspoken in his belief that Luis Melo is responsible for his sister's disappearance, although Luis Melo has never been charged with a crime.

Luis Melo and Whalley crossed paths while driving through Weir Village Wednesday night.

Melo was with his girlfriend, Samira DeOliveira, 23. Whalley was with his wife, Robin, 37.

Melo told police that Whalley had a knife, threatened to kill him and followed him.

Whalley denies the accusations and said Melo started the incident by yelling, swearing and making accusations at him.

There was no physical contact between the two men.

"I told Richard to turn around. I told him to let it go. He's not worth it," said Robin Whalley.

Whalley said she was frightened by Melo's behavior.

"I didn't know if he had a gun. He was screaming and yelling. I was shaking," she said.

"He said Richard had a knife and followed them. That's a lie. Richard had a cell phone," she said.

Robin Whalley said she and her husband were on their way to pick up a lawnmower.

Melo reported the incident to police and a few hours later Patrolman Peter MacDougall went to Whalley's home.

Police said they are investigating the case and it is possible criminal complaints could be filed against Whalley.

"The police said they were looking into it and that we would be summoned into court," said Robin Whalley.

She said it is not the first time Melo and her husband have had confrontations.

"We've had confrontations a few times," said Whalley.

The Whalley family, Debbie Melo's mother, Marilyn Gagnon, and her sister, Patti DeMoura, held a remembrance Mass on June 20 to mark the fifth anniversary of Debbie Melo's disappearance.

Luis Melo did not attend the Mass.

Police said Luis Melo was the last person to see Debbie Melo alive when he told them he let his 31-year-old wife out of the car on Route 18 in Weymouth after an argument. He did not report her missing for 24 hours.


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Family Marks 6th Anniversary Of Woman's Disappearance

Husband Was Last Person To See Debbie Melo

POSTED: 5:13 pm EDT June 20, 2006

UPDATED: 7:01 pm EDT June 20, 2006

WEYMOUTH, Mass. -- Six years ago Tuesday, a young Taunton mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

NBC 10's Larry Estepa reported that her family and friends refuse to give up hope that she'll come home someday.

"I just miss her so much," Chris England said.

Loved ones keep up a lonely roadside vigil along Route 18 in Weymouth. They hope against hope, perhaps against reason, that Debbie Melo will show up as suddenly as she disappeared.

"Every year, there's fewer people here," England said.

England owns the nursery not far from where Melo vanished and where her brother and sister-in-law cling to this fading hope.

"Maybe somebody will remember something. Finally, they want to say something," Melo's brother, Richard Whalley, said.

In six years, Melo's husband, Luis, has said very little to anyone, and less to the family.

"Nothing since day one. He hasn't helped look for her," Melo's sister-in-law, Robin Whalley, said.

Luis Melo has never wavered from his story that he and Debbie argued, and he let her out of his car along Route 18. Nobody has seen her since.

"The only thing we have to go on is what he tells us," Robin Whalley said.

Police questioned Luis Melo, but they never charged him with anything. The authorities gave up organized searching a long time ago.

"You'd like to think that she's still around somewhere. I don't know," England said.

Her brother looks for her around every corner.

"As a matter of fact, I was just standing here this morning and a girl came walking over the bridge, and my heart dropped. I thought it was Debra," Richard Whalley said.

If only wishing could make it so.

"No, we're not going to give up. We'll never give up," Whalley said.

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Family of missing woman marks a solemn anniversary

By SABRINA SHANKMAN Staff Writer 06/21/2006

WEYMOUTH - Robin Whalley said she almost started crying when she saw the woman walking down Route 18 on Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of her sister-in-law, Debbie Melo.

"She was walking down the street and I swore it was her," Whalley said from the side of the road, where she and her husband Richard, Melo's brother, stood holding signs all day to remind drivers of Melo's disappearance.

Each year, on the anniversary of Melo's June 20, 2000, disappearance, the Whalleys stand on the side of Route 18 in Weymouth, the site where Melo was let out of the car by her husband, Luis Melo, and never seen again.

"We're gong to do this every year until she's found," Robin Whalley said.

After six years of looking into the disappearance, the family has become more hopeful. But even with a new round of DNA testing and the involvement of Plymouth County state police and the FBI, the Whalleys are still without answers.

Richard Whalley said he doesn't expect his sister to come home alive but, as cars whizzed by and honked in recognition of the missing woman, he said that doesn't mean they should stop looking.

"I don't want to live another six years not knowing what happened to her," he said.

While the family has accepted that Melo is probably not alive, Whalley said he has kept some faith.

"You have hope," he said. "You hope that you'd see her again someday, but six years have gone by, and the chances are slim."

That's what made it so hard when the Whalleys saw the woman walking down Route 18 Tuesday.

"We looked at each other and we said, 'Oh my God, is that her?' How could we give up?" Richard Whalley asked.

Despite the fact that he thinks his sister is dead, without concrete proof he said he will never be able to fully accept it.

"We can hope and we can pray, but we need to have closure too," he said.

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Debra Marie Melo

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Above: Debra, circa 2000

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: June 20, 2000 from Weymouth, Massachusetts

Classification: Endangered Missing

Date Of Birth: October 17, 1969

Age at time of disappearance: 30 years old

Height and Weight: 5'3, 114 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. Debra has a rose with the name "Louie" tattooed on her right shoulder. Her nickname is Debbie. Some agencies spell Debra's name "Deborah."

Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white shirt, a blue sundress with white flowers, a diamond ring, and a ring with the name "Debra" on her index finger.

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Details of Disappearance

Debra was last seen in Weymouth, Massachusetts between approximately 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. on June 20, 2000. Her husband, Luis Melo, claims they got into an argument while he was driving and she demanded to be let out of the car Route 18, south of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. She has never been heard from again. Luis says he drove a couple of miles down the road, then came back about twenty minutes later to the site where he dropped her off, but Debra was gone.

Luis did not report Debra missing for one to three days (accounts differ). Her family says they had a troubled relationship and Debra had gotten a restraining order against him in 1996, stating in court documents that Luis had threatened to harm himself or her or both of them if she tried to leave him. The order was lifted after only two weeks, however. Debra and Luis had been married for fourteen years by 2000, and she was reportedly considering divorce at the time of her disappearance.

Luis failed a lie detector test about Debra's disappearance. Police have not called him a suspect in Debra's case, but they have publicly wondered why he does not take a more active role in looking for her. Luis has not participated in any searches for Debra. Investigators state that his behavior and attitude is not consistent with that of a grieving husband. He has not been charged in connection with her case, however, and police could not find any evidence as to her fate in his car.

Luis maintains his innocence in Debra's disappearance and stated he believed she was still alive. He currently lives with his girlfriend; they have a child together. Luis was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend after Debra's disappearance and was sentenced to probation.

Debra's family states that she was a devoted mother and it would be uncharacteristic for her for willingly abandon her two children. They believe she is deceased. Debra and Luis managed a Dunkin' Donuts restaurant in Braintee, Massachusetts in 2000. Her disappearance is considered suspicious and her case remains unsolved.

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Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact: Massachusetts State Police 781-830-4800

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Source Information

The National Center for Missing Adults

The Taunton Gazette

The Enterprise

South Coast Today

The Boston Channel

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Weymouth Family Holds Out Hope For Missing Woman

WEYMOUTH (WBZ) ― Eight years after Debra Melo went missing, her family holds out hope that she will be found.

It's a cold case that has frustrated police for years. Melo was last seen on June 20, 2000. Her husband, Luis Melo, claims the couple had a fight, and that he let her out of the car on Route 18. He told police when he went back, she was no where to be found.

"My sister has just disappeared off the face of the earth," said Debra's brother, Rich Whalley. "We're no farther than day 1."

"(Luis) said to me that he killed her," said Debra's mother, Marilyn Gagne. "Yes, he did."

Police never charged Luis Melo.

Each year, Debra's family goes out along Route 18, holding missing posters signs.

"The purpose is to keep her name out there, to let people know Debra is still out there and she's still missing," Rich Whalley said.

"Without closure, we're going to do this every year to let everybody know she's not found yet," said Debra's sister in law, Robin Whalley.

Investigators have conducted searches in Weymouth and in Taunton. They are not calling her disappearance a cold case, saying that every piece of new information is being looked into.

Her family has also hired a private eye to search Massassoit State Park.

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Bones of woman found in Berkley; investigators try to determine her identity and give a family closure

By Maureen Boyle

GateHouse News Service

Posted Nov 14, 2008 @ 06:05 AM

BERKLEY — For nearly two weeks, investigators quietly tried to identify the skeletal remains of a woman discovered near railroad tracks here, hoping to bring closure to a family somewhere.

They compared the remains with information in several high-profile missing-person cases, including the 2000 disappearance of Taunton mother Debbie Melo, who was reported missing by her husband in Weymouth after the couple argued, and the 1988 disappearances of two New Bedford women, both of whom are believed to be the victims of a serial killer.

The investigators did not find a match. Now authorities are hoping that someone will recognize the description of the dead woman.

“If there is anyone out there who may know who she may be, we want them to come forward,” said Gregg Miliote, spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.

Investigators initially concealed the Oct. 29 discovery of the bones, in case the victim was one of the people in the high-profile missing-person cases.

The state medical examiner and an archaeologist examined the remains and determined that the bones were from a white woman who was 25 to 35 years old and had a metal plate in one of her arms.

Experts were not able to pinpoint when the death occurred; they could only say that it was between three and 20 years ago.

Miliote said authorities are now turning to experts who will try to approximate what the woman’s face looked like. That will take weeks, however.

A property owner found the remains off Plain Street on Oct. 29, about 500 feet from railroad tracks.

“He was clearing brush in the wooded back of his 5-acre property when he noticed what appeared to be a human skull several feet away from where he was working,” Miliote said.

Other bones were later found at the scene. A State Police dog trained to find bodies was brought in.

More than 1,400 unidentified dead are entered into the National Crime Information Center missing-persons database each year.

Dorothy MacLean, a former Rockland resident whose daughter Jennifer Fay disappeared in Brockton 19 years ago today, said she – like most families of missing people – has mixed feelings every time remains are discovered.

“It is like, do you want it to be Jennifer or do you want to think she is still alive?” MacLean said. “That is what I go through. I want to believe she is alive. I don’t want her to be dead, but I would like to have some closure at the same time.”

MacLean, formerly of Rockland, said families agonize while waiting for closure.

“It is awful,” she said. “Every time they find remains somewhere, I have to prepare myself that it could possibly be my daughter.”

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Public's help sought in ID'ing remains

By John Moss

Herald News Staff Reporter

Posted Nov 15, 2008 @ 07:20 PM

Berkley  State police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the skeletal remains of a woman found on private property last month.

Initially, a skull was found on a 5-acre lot off Plain Street by the property owner as he cleared brush on Oct. 29, said Gregg Miliote, spokesman for the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. Local police were notified and subsequently state police, assigned to the DA’s office, and cadaver dogs were called to the scene.

A further search revealed more bones, Miliote said.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office took custody of the remains.

“We have ruled out some people and are looking for the public’s assistance in attempting to identify the woman,†he said. 

The remains are believed to be those of a white woman, between the ages of 25 and 35. She had a metal plate in her arm, apparently replacing a badly broken bone, Miliote said.

An archaeologist estimated that the bones had been at the site for three to 20 years, he said.

Anyone knowing of a woman gone missing between 1988 and 2005, fitting that description, is asked to call state police at the DA’s office at 508-997-0711.

Authorities have ruled out three missing women, including Debra Melo, the 30-year-old mother of two from Taunton, missing since June 20, 2000, after an argument with her husband.

Also ruled out were two victims of the unsolved highway killings of two decades ago, whose bodies were never found.

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‘She deserves justice’

10 years later, family remains committed to finding answers in Melo disappearance


Staff Writer

Posted Jun 19, 2010 @ 11:50 PM

Taunton — Ten years after Debbie Melo went missing the case seems further than ever from being solved.

Melo’s brother, Richard Whalley, who kept a shrine to his sister and held annual vigils, died two years ago after a brief illness.

The shrine next to his family’s home on Old Colony Avenue has since overgrown with weeds.

His widow, Robin, said she is too overcome with grief to return to the Weymouth road where Melo was last seen. The spot where she and her late husband held posters of Melo every June 20, the day of her disappearance.

“It’s hard for me to do the things I did with my husband,” she said.

But Whalley said she and many of Debbie’s relatives still talk publicly about the case and haven’t given up trying to find Debbie, or at least try to learn her fate.

“If you don’t keep it out there, people that haven’t experienced it will forget,” she said.

Melo, a 30-year-old mother of two, disappeared without a trace on June 20, 2000. Her then-husband, Luis Melo, — who didn’t report her missing until more than 24 hours later — told police he dropped her on the side of Route 18 in Weymouth after the couple had an argument.

Within weeks, Luis Melo, who has since remarried, promptly severed contact with the missing woman’s relatives and was never present during any searches with family members, said relatives.

“The only thing I can say is he looks guilty because he doesn’t have any involvement in the case. It’s disturbing,” said Patricia DeMoura, Debbie Melo’s younger sister. Adding, “I wish we could think differently.”

Luis Melo lives on Baylies Road with his wife and daughter from his marriage with Debbie. He did not respond to requests to comment.

DeMoura said she has gotten closer to her niece and nephew in recent years, making a You Tube tribute with Debbie’s daughter Alyssa, now 23.

“We talk about [their mother] and it’s devastating to them,” she says.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, District Attorney Sam Sutter re-opened the case, which is considered “open, active and pending,” according to Sutter’s spokesperson Gregg Miliote.

“We remain committed to the Melo case and the approximately 100 others from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s,” he said.

Debbie Melo’s former brother-in-law Steven DeMoura has been active himself in trying solve the mystery of the disappearance, often talking to Taunton and state police about rumors he hears.

“The effort is definitely there, they just need something to go off of,” he said.

According to DeMoura, his sister-in-law’s marriage to Luis Melo was often turbulent. In 1994, she took out an emergency restraining order against her husband.

A domestic disturbance occurred again in 2003, when a conviction on a charge of assault and battery against his live-in girlfriend led to a sentence of a year of probation.

Police say leads in the disappearance continue to crop up, and DeMoura is confident they are being investigated/

“The hope hasn’t changed. We still want answers,” he said.

And family members are still determined “not to forget what happened, not to forgive what happened just to get closure so she can rest in peace at this time,” DeMoura said.

Instead of the roadside vigil this Sunday, family members plan to honor Debbie Melo with a private candlelight ceremony at the LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro.

“We just want to keep her name alive so that if anything ever comes out there people know to report it,” Whalley said. “She deserves justice.”

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